Obama to visit North Carolina State University for event on economy

White house says the president will be here January 15 for an economic event.
January 11, 2014 5:32:55 PM PST
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Triangle for what's being described as "an event on the economy."

White House press secretary Jay Carney announced Thursday that President Obama would travel to the Research Triangle area on Jan. 15. On Saturday, officials said Obama will make his speech at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

In a statement released Saturday, NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said, "We are honored to welcome President Obama and look forward to demonstrating how NC State is a pre-eminent research enterprise that excels in driving economic growth and educating the workforce of the future."

Political experts who spoke to ABC11 believe the president will touch on the lack of unemployment benefits in North Carolina. They also believe his visit is helping solidify North Carolina's growth and role as a big political battleground.

It doesn't hurt that there's a big Senate race coming up this year either.

"The president has visited the state several times. So, I think he is becoming a fan of the Tar Heel State," said the Executive Director of the North Carolina Democratic Party Robert Dempsey. "This is a very important state not just electorally but also to the nation."

Dempsey believes the president's economic fueled visit will focus on the state's current situation.

"Specifically, the extension of unemployment benefits that right now is working their way through Congress to be reinstated," said Dempsey.

North Carolina State University Political Science Professor Steve Greene is on the same page. He also believes unemployment will be one focus, but part of a bigger picture with the upcoming Senate race.

"He may be seeing it as politically strategic to try and play up the extension of unemployment benefits in the state," said Greene.

The state's GOP has been criticizing Sen. Kay Hagan.  They accuse her of distancing herself from the president since the Obamacare website problem.

The GOP released a statement already attacking how Hagan will handle the president's visit. It said, "The question North Carolinians are now asking is whether Kay Hagan will go out of her way to avoid the president or whether she will publicly embrace the president."

It appears that Hagan's schedule is making that decision for her. The Senate is in session, which means she can't be here anyway.  

"Kay Hagan specifically right now is fighting in the Senate to make sure those unemployment benefits are extended to North Carolinians," said Dempsey.

Critics still wonder how this political relationship will play out as election time approaches.

So far, Gov. Pat McCrory's office has not said what his plans are for when the president comes into town. They said they were not ready to release any information about those plans just yet.

President Obama made two visits to the state in 2013. Last June, he discussed plans to change the nation's classrooms into digital learning centers during a visit to the Charlotte area.

Last February, President Obama followed his State of the Union address with a stop in the Asheville area to tour a local auto parts plant which he used as an example of the nation's economic resurgence.

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