President Obama Visits the Hoover Dam

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

BOULDER CITY, Nev. - It could be considered the mother of all study breaks: a 30-mile trek in a presidential motorcade to visit one of greatest feats of American public works of all time.

That's exactly what President Barack Obama did this afternoon, pausing from intensive debate preparations for an hour-and-a-half excursion to the Hoover Dam.

"Its spectacular and I've never seen it before," Obama told reporters from a heliport overlooking the dam. "I didn't realize it was so close by."

The dam is frequently cited by Obama as an example of American ingenuity and the value of government-funded investment in public infrastructure.

As he looked north up the river gorge, Obama marveled at the dam's construction and power output as he chatted with Assistant Dam Manager Rob Skordas and U.S. Interior Department official Janel Brawner-Potucek.

"The power generated here, where's it going?" Obama asked Skordas.

"Mostly Southern California," he replied, surprising Obama.

"Not Vegas?" the president said. "I always assumed Vegas got its power from here."

"Yeah, you always assume this dam is powering all those lights," said Skordas, referring to the colorful illumination on the famous Vegas Strip.

Skordas and Brawner-Potucek appeared to be the only Nevada voters with whom Obama has interacted today outside his lakeside oasis in Henderson. Aides have said the president chose to hold his so-called "debate camp" here in order to take advantage of opportunities to meet with voters in this key swing state. On Monday, he met with campaign volunteers at a local field office.

The president declined to answer questions from the press pool accompanying him about his progress in preparing for tomorrow night's debate or the performance of Sen. John Kerry, who is standing in as Mitt Romney.