As president, Bill Clinton always wanted to take summer vacations on ritzy Martha's Vineyard. But instead he headed west because then pal and pollster Dick Morris said it would boost his slumping re-election polls. Clinton shifted to Jackson Hole, Wyo., adopting a rugged Rockies image.
"I polled to convince Clinton to go to Jackson Hole and the Rockies on his vacation rather than to the Vineyard," says Morris, who was Clinton's secret adviser during his first term before the split. "The public was sick of the photos of his hobnobbing with celebrities and cruising on their yachts and the polling showed that they would rather see their president camping in the Rockies. So he went for two vacations--1995 and 1996--and hated it but it helped his polling."
Now 15 years later, President Obama is getting some similar vacation advice intended to bolster his image, especially with those upset with his administration's handling of the Gulf oil spill cleanup. On one hand, Gulf tourism officials think he should visit the area to help show it's still a good vacation spot while on the other hand the public wants him there to do some public service. [See photos of the Gulf oil spill.]
Gulf officials think that Obama, who is off to Maine this weekend for a short pre-vacation before a longer one likely in Martha's Vineyard, would help them with their sales bid to the rest of the nation. They say pictures of Obama and his family, beamed around the world through the huge White House press corps, would be much better than his brief visits to the oil spill site and meeting with local residents. Instead, a vacation would prove that the beaches are open for business. [Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About Martha's Vineyard.]
"It would be an honor to have President Obama and the first family vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast," says Patti Culp, executive director or Alabama Travel Council Inc. "There are so many things to see and do that they have never experienced in the South. Walking our beautiful beaches, eating the best seafood in the world, shopping at the over 100 stores at the outlet center, playing miniature golf, enjoying the southern sun and the southern hospitality, going crabbing, going swimming, boggy boarding, going to the spa, para-sailing, fishing, boating, etc. etc. It's a family paradise! Come on down first family," she says. [See a gallery of cartoons about the oil spill.]
The public has another reason, according to our Whispers poll conducted by Synovate-eNation. They want Obama to spend part of his vacation doing public service in the Gulf helping to clean up the region. Some 46 percent our poll said he should help with the cleanup, though 30 percent think he should be allowed to take a break at the Vineyard. The rest think a stint on a Detroit unemployment line or working side-by-side with AmeriCorps volunteers helping rebuild New Orleans would be good.
The Whispers Poll
As President Obama readies for another vacation in Martha's Vineyard, some want him to try something different, like a volunteer project. Which should he do?
Help the Gulf oil cleanup: 46%
Stick with the Vineyard, he deserves a break: 30%
Help out in a Detroit unemployment office: 17%
Help AmeriCorps workers rebuild New Orleans: 7%
Source: The Synovate eNation Internet poll was conducted July 1-July 6 among 1,000 nationally representative households by global market research firm Synovate.