On the sidelines during Obama’s presidential visit to NC

jfrank@newsobserver.com cowens@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2014 

A presidential visit sets in motion a whole cast of political acts.

And what happens on the sidelines, outside the staged speech, is often just as interesting.

Here’s a look a few political side stories to President Barack Obama’s trip to Raleigh on Wednesday.

McCrory seeks ‘relationship’

Gov. Pat McCrory met President Barack Obama on the tarmac Wednesday in North Carolina with a message: Don’t be a stranger.

The Republican governor told the president he wants to build a relationship to get help with issues from food stamps and Medicaid to unemployment and offshore drilling.

“In the short time I had on the tarmac, I took advantage of every minute,” said McCrory, who also attended Obama’s speech. “I talked about wanting to build a relationship with the White House in dealing with complex issues from unemployment to Medicaid to food stamps and also offshore drilling.”

“He immediately, to his credit, introduced me to his energy secretary, and I’m setting up a meeting in February with the energy secretary with other governors to explore and hopefully move forward offshore drilling, at least for natural gas off our coast,” McCrory continued.

A special flight to Washington

The president had some extra passengers on Air Force One. U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton traveled with the president to Raleigh, and chancellors Randy Woodson of N.C. State and Carol Folt of UNC hitched a ride back to D.C. with the president.

McIntyre, the longtime Democratic congressman who recently announced he would retire from the House at the end of the year, was invited by the White House to travel with the president. McIntyre has shied away from public appearances with the president in the past but said in a statement that Obama’s announcement made Wednesday a “great day for the people of North Carolina. These manufacturing hubs will bring jobs back to our state, spur innovation, and boost our national economy.”

Woodson and Folt are flying to D.C. to take part in another of Obama’s initiatives.

On Thursday, he is hosting college presidents, leaders from foundations and nonprofits and the private sector to discuss how to increase access to college.

Obama visits local tech company

Before his speech at N.C. State University, Obama visited Vacon, a research and development company in Research Triangle Park. He toured the facility with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Inside, engineer Rod Washington showed the president where Vacon tests AC drives and explained how the product promotes efficiency.

Turning to reporters, Obama said: “That means ultimately, energy savings that we can spread across the entire economy. This makes our energy smarter, more efficient.”

Frank: 919-829-4698

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