WASHINGTON — About that possible presidential visit to Tampa …
President Barack Obama is headed to DeSoto County next week and will not appear in Tampa, the White House said Friday.
Democratic insiders were planning on a visit in Tampa and a tentative schedule sent to members of Congress showed a stop there. But "Tampa" is apparently White House shorthand for that general region of the state.
Either way, the purpose is the same: to highlight Obama's commitment to green energy.
The president will tour Florida Power & Light's new solar energy plant in Arcadia, which is being celebrated as the largest solar photovoltaic plant in the country, big enough to serve 3,000 homes.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who has widely celebrated the plant, will not attend. His spokeswoman said Friday that he has to be in Tallahassee for the state Cabinet meeting.
But political calculations are at work, too. Crist is seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, and standing with Obama could be a liability. He got savaged by conservatives for appearing with Obama in Fort Myers in February to support the economic stimulus plan and probably wants to avoid another round of publicity.
FPL is trying to overcome some negative publicity of its own. The utility is seeking a 30 percent base rate increase but has taken criticism for high salaries and lavish spending.
As Obama is visiting its facility, the Public Service Commission will decide whether to move on the case this year or wait, as Crist wants, until January when a new commissioner begins work.
Obama's trip to Florida begins Monday when he will visit servicemen and women at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. That evening, he'll attend a big Democratic fundraiser in Miami Beach.
The president will likely use the stage in Arcadia to tout stimulus funding for innovative wind and solar technologies and the so-called smart grid, which uses better metering to lower household costs and incorporates alternative energy.
He touched on those themes during a speech Friday at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Obama previewed what will be a big fight over an energy and climate bill moving through Congress.
"The closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we'll hear from those whose interest or ideology runs counter to action," Obama said.