WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama insists he is not in campaign mode and won't be until after his Republican presidential challenger is chosen, despite being in the middle of a three-day tour of five states that all happen to be key for his reelection campaign.
"Until the Republicans have a nominee, we don't have a campaign," Obama said in a Wednesday interview with Univision, his first sit-down since Tuesday's State of the Union address.
He also said he has not even thought about who would be a more challenging GOP contender, Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
"You know, I don't really think about that," Obama said. "What I can say is this. That whoever their nominee is, they represent ideas that I think are wrong for America."
And then, in a campaign-style speech, he proceeded to map out all of the reasons why former House Speaker Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney are not the right fit for the presidency:
They believe that we should actually make the tax code more unequal. They believe that we should not provide a pathway to citizenship for young people who were brought here when they were very young children, and are basically American kids, but right now are still in a shadow. They've said that they would veto the Dream Act. Both of them. They both believe that we should repeal a health care law that stands to provide millions of Latinos who work every single day the opportunity to make sure that they've got health insurance. And so on a whole range of issues I think that whether it's Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Santorum or whoever else they might decide to select, they represent a fundamentally different vision of America. And it's not the bold, generous, forward-looking, optimistic America that I think built this country.
The president sat for the Univision interview while in Chandler, Ariz., one of five states he is hitting this week to pitch the social and economic vision he laid out in his State of the Union address. Earlier in the day, Obama gave a speech on American manufacturing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On Thursday he gave speeches about American-made energy in Las Vegas, Nev., and Aurora, Colo., and on Friday, he is set to give remarks in Detroit, Mich., before heading back home.
All five of those states are battleground regions for Obama's reelection. And the fact that he is visiting all of them now to pitch his State of the Union message -- that everybody deserves a fair shot at economic success and everybody must play by the same rules -- is a convenient way for him to connect his governing to his campaigning, which has been in operation for months but has not yet become his full-time activity.
Asked how Americans will be able to tell when he is campaigning versus governing, Obama told Univision that he plans to stay focused on his job and expects the politics will follow. He then touted some of his accomplishments over the past few years -- citing 3 million new jobs in the last 22 months and a recovery in American manufacturing -- and said he plans to keep traveling around the country to argue that his policies, not Republicans' ideas, are the right ones for the country.
"So those are the kinds of fights that we're going to have" on the campaign trail, the president said. "And you know, some people may interpret that as campaigning. I consider that to be important to my leadership in governing this country."