President Barack Obama is following the pattern of past commanders in chief when they got into political trouble at home: He is getting out of town. In fact, Obama is getting out of the country.
He is scheduled to visit Mexico today. He goes to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Saudi Arabia next month. His schedule takes him to Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines in April. He is to visit France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in June.
There are surely good diplomatic reasons for such an extensive foreign travel schedule. But something else is at work. Obama's job approval rating is hovering substantially below 50 percent at home, a mediocre number. His popularity in many states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan and West Virginia, has declined so much that he is not an asset to many Democratic candidates. In contrast, when he travels abroad he is treated like a statesman representing the most powerful nation on earth rather than politician whose fortunes have declined. And he has more latitude to make foreign policy compared with domestic policy, so he is naturally drawn to international issues and trips.
Obama can still raise money for Democrats at home. Any president can command a big crowd and draw big donations from the party faithful no matter what his overall approval ratings may be. And Obama aides say he will do plenty of fundraising in advance of the midterm elections this fall.
But Obama is no longer the charismatic, commanding figure he once was at home. And his schedule shows it.