Split-screen presidency: Obama relishes campaign-style trips, but gains little momentum

The Associated Press

This combination image of President Barack Obama shows him, left, talking about the economy during a visit to Denver on July 9, 2014, and right, talking at the White House in Washington about the situation in Iraq on June 19, 2014. There's the confident Obama ridiculing opponents to the delight of his supporters. Then there's the increasingly unpopular president hobbled by gridlock in Washington and foreign policy crises. While Obama has long sought refuge away from the capital when his frustrations boiled over, the gap between his outside and inside games has perhaps never been bigger. (AP Photos)

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Almost all of these types of events are planned by the White House, though not publicly announced before the president's arrival. And the White House's increasing reliance on such events as a way to garner attention opened the president up to ridicule from Republicans when after he declared in Texas that he wasn't going to take a first-hand look at the humanitarian crisis at the Texas border because he was "not interested in photo ops."

"Obama's presidency has been defined by photo-ops and political theater," said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who advised Obama's 2012 presidential rival, Mitt Romney. "Every time he's gotten in trouble, he's sought to seize the airwaves or the podium to try to frame his crisis negatively."

White House officials insist the president is simply trying to reconnect with Americans and show them that someone in Washington is looking out for their interests.

"A presidential appearance somewhere sends a very important message about the president's priorities," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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