* Overnight dash to Copenhagen fails
* Setback to Chicago, Obama's hometown
* Obama was flying home to Washington when he got the news
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, Oct 2 U.S. President Barack Obama's
politically risky Olympics gamble failed to bring home the gold
on Friday, with the Olympics committee's refusal to grant the
2016 Summer Games to his hometown Chicago.
The president, whose even-tempered personality has earned
him the nickname "No Drama Obama," broke from that mold to make
an overnight dash from Washington to Copenhagen to personally
lobby for Chicago.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, had taken their star power to
the Danish capital to make Chicago's case, ignoring the carping
from Republican opponents who charged it was a bad time to go
with foreign policy challenges in Iran and Afghanistan and the
U.S. Congress bogged down in a domestic healthcare debate.
"I'm asking you to choose Chicago. I'm asking you to choose
America," Michelle Obama told committee members.
Her husband said, "If you do, if we walk this path
together, then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the
United States of America will make the world proud."
All that was for naught as Chicago was eliminated in the
first round of voting, a decision that brought gasps from the
Chicago contingent at the Copenhagen meeting.
The Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele,
was unsparing in his criticism in a statement issued before the
decision was announced and on a day when the U.S. jobless rate
rose to 9.8 percent, a 26-year high.
"As President Obama travels to Copenhagen to bring the
Summer Olympics to his hometown seven years from now, Americans
back home are increasingly concerned they won't have a job
seven months from now as they see more and more of their
neighbors and friends lose jobs today," Steele said.
Obama had originally planned not to go but changed his mind
when it was clear that other leaders wanting their countries to
host the 2016 Games would be there.
The Democratic president got the bad news as Air Force One
flew him back to Washington, where just about every move he
makes goes under a partisan microscope.
While more Republican criticism was likely, it was unclear
whether the failure would have a lasting impact on Obama's
political image. His job approval rating has stabilized at
slightly above 50 percent after dropping about 10 points over
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato
said he believed the issue would not linger.
"It's a classic political hullabaloo that will fade
quickly," he said. "I think it actually points up a problem the
Republicans are having, which is focusing the unhappiness and
disagreement they have with Obama. In politics you have to be
able to complain about the right things."
(Editing by Howard Goller)