President Obama's scheduled visit to Minnesota on Monday will give him a chance to improve his visiting record. The president hasn't exactly ignored Minnesota, but he did not rack up as many first-term visits as his recent predecessors. In his first four years in office, Obama visited the state five times. During their first terms, Bill Clinton made seven trips to Minnesota and George W. Bush touched down 15 times, according to Brendan Doherty, a political scientist at the U.S. Naval Academy, who has compiled data on presidential travel dating back to the late 1970s. Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, visited Minnesota three times during his single term in office and Ronald Reagan made only three stops in eight years, according to Doherty's research.
Oberstar would 'gladly serve' as transportation secretary
With the resignation of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Minnesota congressman Jim Oberstar, aka "Mr. Transportation," is being mentioned frequently in Washington parlor chatter about a successor.
"If the administration is interested, and asks me, I will gladly serve," Oberstar said Tuesday.
Oberstar has not talked to White House staff or President Obama about the job and doesn't plan to mount a campaign for it, but the former chairman of the House Transportation Committee has said he would expect to be considered on the strength of his long transportation resume and record of bipartisanship on transportation projects.
But, as almost every commentator in the commentariat has noted, Oberstar would add nothing to the race or gender diversity of President Obama's Cabinet -- unless the White House is looking for a French-speaking Iron Ranger.
Taking that into consideration, Oberstar speculated that Debbie Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm are likely the top candidates for the job.
Another potential obstacle could be Oberstar's well-publicized spat with the White House over the $500 billion price tag of his doomed House transportation bill, as well as his openness to raising the federal gas tax to fund it.
On the plus side, Oberstar knows his way around Capitol Hill, and could be an effective liaison to the House and the Senate. Washington lobbyist Dennis McGrann, who represents many Minnesota counties and cities, said whatever Oberstar's chances, he would be a good pick for the state.
"From our perspective, we'd love to have a Minnesotan in that position," he said. "He would be an asset."
KEVIN DIAZ AND COREY MITCHELL