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President Obama plans Florida trip with likely stop in Tampa

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is planning a trip to Florida next week that mixes politics and policy, including a stop in Tampa to highlight a commitment to a reinvented national energy network, the "smart grid."

The White House is still planning the three-city visit — and only a fundraiser in Miami on Monday evening is confirmed — but Hillsborough County is a major political and news media base that would be attractive to a president trying to advance a wide-ranging domestic agenda.

Tentative plans call for Obama to visit the Jacksonville area Monday for an unknown policy-related stop. Typically, presidential visits to Jacksonville have focused on the large military presence. It will be Obama's second visit to Florida as president.

Monday evening, Obama will attend a fundraiser at the lavish Fontainebleau in Miami Beach to benefit Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate.

And then Tuesday, he could be in Tampa for a green energy event.

Health care has dominated the debate in recent months but energy is taking on new urgency with the U.S. Senate beginning talks on "cap-and-trade" legislation to cut greenhouse emissions. And Obama has been focused on smart grid innovation, putting $4.5 billion in his stimulus package.

Smart grid is a loose term describing various ways to ease energy use while incorporating more wind and solar and other alternative sources.

In Obama's home state of Hawaii, planners are working on a power meter that monitors how much electricity is being used by appliances and turns them off during peak times when energy demand is higher.

In Boulder, Colo., homeowners plan to sell some of their unused solar energy to a local utility, cutting bills and spreading the power of the sun.

In Tampa Bay, Progress Energy has been working with research firms to seek federal funding for alternative energy grids.

Obama might also do a fundraising event in Tampa, continuing an increased effort as his party heads into the 2010 midterm elections.

Guests in Miami are paying $500 to get into the cocktail reception and a whopping $30,400 per couple for a photo with Obama, according to a flier.

Official details on the trip could come Friday. The White House typically guards its plans for both security and logistical reasons, and the Tampa leg was still a work in progress Tuesday.

But Ana Cruz, a Tampa-based Democratic consultant, said it made sense for Obama to visit Hillsborough County for both policy and political reasons.

"The 2010 elections are going to be a big battle for the state," she said. "This will be the first time that all of the (state) cabinet positions are up. The healthier Democrats can make this state for the 2010 elections, then the healthier we are for 2012," when Obama is up for re-election.

Alex Leary can be reached at leary@sptimes.com.

President Obama plans Florida trip with likely stop in Tampa 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 11:55pm]
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