* 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 (Reuters) - 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 the summer.
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