Obama's visit is aimed at drawing attention to a manufacturing
initiative he promised last year to identify hubs linking
ground-breaking research with businesses that could use the
However, the announcement will be overshadowed by his inability so
far to persuade Congress to approve legislation extending emergency
unemployment insurance for people who have been out of work for at
least six months. The president and his aides say approving such
benefits would not only provide 1.5 million Americans a much-needed
cushion but would boost growth.
Despite pressure from the administration, Democrats and Republicans
in the U.S. Senate rejected one another's proposals on Monday. While
they vowed to keep working to find middle ground, a compromise
appears unlikely before next week's Senate recess. The measure would
also have to pass the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Obama's presence in North Carolina comes as the Republican-dominated
state government has carried out a conservative agenda, cutting
jobless benefits, banning same-sex marriage, and freezing pay for
In that environment, North Carolina's Democratic Senator Kay Hagen
faces a tough reelection battle in November. She will not be with
Obama during trip, citing the need to participate in votes in
Analysts said it would not serve her to be too closely associated
with Obama, whose bungled healthcare law roll-out has dropped his
popularity ratings in the state.
But despite the right-leaning cast of its elected officials, North
Carolina, which voted for Obama in 2008 and Republican challenger
Mitt Romney in 2012, remains a "purple" state divided among
Democrats and Republicans, analysts said. A drawing of political
district lines that gave advantages to Republicans and generous
funding from deep-pocketed political donors has skewed
representation in the general assembly to the right, they said.
Even though the election is months away, Obama's visit should help
mobilize loyal Democrats, in particular young people who are less
likely to vote in mid-term elections.
[to top of second column]
"North Carolina is still a battleground state," said David McLennan,
a political scientist at William Peace University in Raleigh. A
substantial African-American community, a rising number of Hispanic
voters and numerous university towns that have drawn residents from
out of state have contributed to this shift to political balance, he
While in North Carolina, President Obama is due to visit Vacon, a
company that manufactures an electric motor part, and then give a
speech at North Carolina State University. There, he is due to
announce that a group of companies has been selected to the first of
three manufacturing institutes he said last year he would launch.
The institutes, being established with $200 million of federal
money, are aimed at linking companies with innovative technologies.
The one being announced in North Carolina is focused on spurring
development of energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips that
will make electronic devices like motors and consumer electronics
smaller and faster.
Two other institutes focused on digital manufacturing and
lightweight metals manufacturing are due to be announced in coming
weeks, the White House said.
For this institute, the Department of Energy is awarding $70 million
over five years, matched by at least $70 million in non-federal
commitments by the winning team of businesses and universities,
along with the state of North Carolina, the White House said.
(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; editing by Lisa Shumaker)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.