By JENNIFER EPSTEIN | 1/19/12 1:53 PM EST
President Barack Obama on Thursday brought his jobs message to the Magic Kingdom, a choice of locale that drew instant Republican jabs at him for living in “Fantasyland.”
He selected Disney World in Orlando to highlight its importance as a prime tourist destination, and he struck an optimistic note as he stood before the Cinderella Castle and unveiled plans to boost tourism and create up to 1 million jobs over the next decade.
“This is the land where we do big things,” Obama said. “I want America to be the top tourist destination in the world. Tourism is the number one service that we export. … That means jobs. More money spent by more tourists means more businesses can hire more workers. It’s a pretty simple formula.”
A simple formula, but an important one for Obama’s reelection chances: He won Florida in 2008 but faces a greater challenge there in 2012. The Sunshine State has been battered by the recession and housing crisis, and unemployment hovers above the national average at about 10 percent.
White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Wednesday that Obama’s trip to Disney World was not a political calculation. “It’s obvious when you’re making a tourism and travel announcement that one of the premier sites of the U.S. tourism industry is Orlando, so it seems pretty self-evident that you would do that,” Carney said.
But Republicans pounced on the symbolism.
“Perhaps there’s some poetic justice in the president speaking from Fantasyland because, I’m afraid, he’s been speaking from Fantasyland for some time now,” GOP front-runner Mitt Romney said during a Thursday morning conference call.
On the stump in South Carolina, Romney added an attack aimed at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s surging in several polls. “[Obama] may bump into Speaker Gingrich down there in Fantasyland. I only say that because the speaker was talking about all the jobs that he helped create in the Reagan years,” Romney said.
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