Obama's visit to Texas last week, KXAS/Channel 5 anchor Jane McGarry asked me why the president would make such a trip.
"Surely, he doesn't think he can win Texas," she posited.
Actually, I told her, while it may be a long shot, I'm not sure Democrats are giving up on this hugely red state.
But despite his campaign-style speech, Obama was not in the state seeking votes for himself. He was here trying to get support for his proposed $447 million jobs bill.
There's no doubt that the 2012 campaign is under way, and you need to look no further than the stalemate in Congress to figure that out. The recalcitrance on the part of Republican members in particular has stalled meaningful legislation since Obama took office, a tactic aimed at making sure the president is defeated next year.
Obama has learned that when he can't persuade Congress to do the right thing, perhaps its members can be turned by their constituents. That's why Obama came to Texas, just as he has gone to several other states that are home to some of the most obstinate congressional leaders we've ever seen.
Of his three appearances in Dallas last week, consider that the president chose to make his public speech at a community college. Of the Dallas County Community College District's seven colleges and 13 campuses, Obama selected Eastfield in Mesquite, which happens to be in the 5th Congressional District.
Representing that district is Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, who is House Republican Conference chairman and co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the 12-member "supercommittee" charged with finding (before Thanksgiving) $1.5 trillion in federal savings over the next 10 years.
Hensarling and his Republican colleagues have said that the president's jobs bill was basically dead on arrival because it calls for tax increases on the wealthy and the elimination of tax loopholes for large corporations such as oil and gas companies.
In fairness, there also are some Democrats in Congress from oil- and gas-producing states who are not eager to vote on any bill that affects the bottom line of some of their big contributors.
With Congress continuing its now customary do-nothing agenda, the president has been expanding his "backyard diplomacy" -- taking his message to the people in the back yards of powerful conservative congressional leaders. And that message is resonating with the public.
You can't begin to balance the budget and cut the deficit using spending cuts alone. There has to be additional revenue (yes, taxes) to have any significant impact on deficit reduction and, therefore, make some headway in job creation.
The truth is, most Republicans are not interested in either. Their No. 1 goal is to make Obama a one-term president, even if it means letting people hurt in this dreadful economy while lawmakers continue to protect the interests of their rich backers.
They have rejected some of their own basic tenets when included in any Obama proposal because they don't want to give the president "a win" as the presidential campaign heats up.
It is a message that the president has begun to articulate. He's doing it directly and forcefully, to the delight of some of his core constituents.
"Give me a win?" he asked rhetorically during the Mesquite stop. "Give me a break."
He continued: "This is not about giving Democrats or Republicans a win. This is about giving people who are hurting a win. This is about giving small-business owners a win, and entrepreneurs a win, and students a win, and working families a win. This is about giving America a win."
Obama seems to be winning this argument with the public, as a vast majority, including a majority of Republicans, thinks the rich ought to be taxed more. Surely GOP leaders are feeling that heat.
As he did during the debt ceiling fight, the president is calling on Americans to contact members of Congress by all means available: phone, fax, email, Twitter, you name it.
Again, as Obama said, "The time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now."
Are you listening, Congress?