Obama Kicks Off Campaign College Tour as Isaac Churns

Isaac Brekken/AP Photo

As Isaac bears down on New Orleans and the Gulf coast, President Obama hits the campaign trail undeterred today for a two-day college tour meant to energize younger voters and steal some of the spotlight from the Republican Convention in Florida.

Officials at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago said they were closely monitoring the storm but decided to proceed with scheduled rallies at Iowa State University in Ames this afternoon and Colorado State University in Ft. Collins this evening. Obama has an event planned near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Wednesday.

"The President and his team will continue to monitor the storm and he will receive briefings throughout the day," an Obama campaign official told ABC News. "There are no scheduling updates at this time."

Get more pure politics at ABCNews.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

Obama, who relied on unprecedented enthusiasm and turnout among younger voters in 2008, is making an aggressive push to engage college students just as they return to campus for the new academic year. Classes at Iowa State and Colorado State began last week; the University of Virginia begins today.

Greeting students on 256 campuses across 31 states are Obama organizing teams ready to enlist new volunteers, register first-time voters and spread the word about getting out to vote in 70 days, according to a new campaign website targeting younger voters.

"The president will talk about what is at stake for young people in this country and the choice they face as we look ahead to the election in November," said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki of the president's visits.

Tops among the issues Obama will address are college affordability, Psaki said, including the administration's record of increasing federal student aid to broaden access to higher education and help reduce debts.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign said it would stress the disproportionately high rate of joblessness among younger Americans and recent college graduates during Obama's term. A full page ad greeting Obama in the Iowa State Daily highlights that roughly half of new college grads are unemployed or underemployed, while the youth unemployment rate is roughly double the national average, or 16.4 percent.

But while Obama - and Isaac - compete for the spotlight today, Republicans huddling in Tampa said they were determined to take center stage, pressing ahead with their convention schedule despite the storm. And Democrats in Tampa signaled they are poised to follow suit.

Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced they would hold their first press conference in a "war room" just a stone's throw from the RNC convention hall, while in the skies above Tampa the Democratic National Committee planned to deploy an airplane toting a banner that reads: "Romney-Ryan-Akin: Too Extreme for Women."

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