Jason Reed / Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama steps on stage to deliver remarks on American manufacturing in front of an Intel plant under construction in Chandler, Arizona January 25, 2012.
President Barack Obama was returning Thursday to two states key to his re-election, Nevada and Colorado, promoting his energy agenda while grabbing some of the political spotlight ahead of his Republican rivals.
Both states hold their presidential caucuses within the next two weeks — events that have grown in importance as the Republican contest for the White House appears to narrow to a choice between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Obama's energy pitch also comes just days after he drew Republican criticism for rejecting a cross-country oil pipeline that would have delivered Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Texas.
In Nevada, Obama said his administration will open a large swath in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development.
He also was scheduled to speak at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado, drawing attention to proposals for clean energy and greater domestic oil and gas production.
Obama won both Nevada and Colorado in 2008. He visited both states in late October, using that trip to launch a phase of his campaign to jump-start the economy. With economic indicators improving, he now visits on a higher note.
Obama is drawing attention to two aspects of his energy policy — greater domestic energy production and investment in cleaner energy sources.
The nearly 38-million-acre (153,780 square kilometer) parcel the Obama administration is putting up for lease is part of an offshore drilling plan for 2007-12 put in place by former President George W. Bush. But after the massive BP oil spill of 2010 led to an overhaul of the government's oversight of offshore exploration and production, some areas had to be re-evaluated for the environmental risks associated with drilling.
The White House is portraying Obama as willing to seek the middle ground on energy after Republicans and the industry criticized him for the moratorium put in place after the Gulf disaster, the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, and other policies they say have hampered production, jobs and national energy security.