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Obama visiting PSU, but not Punxsy

January 29, 2011

WASHINGTON — Talk about a summit in the making.

Friday, the White House announced that President Obama would be visiting “central Pennsylvania” next week — specifically, Feb. 2 ... Groundhog Day.

Could it be that the President of the United States and Punxsutawney Phil are getting together for a meeting of the minds during America’s Second-Favorite Holiday?

What would they talk about? Health care? The economy? Using some of Punxsy Phil’s life-extending elixir for that upcoming 2012 election?
Don’t count on it.

“No, Obama is not coming to Groundhog Day,” Inner Circle Vice-President Mike Johnston said Friday. “He’s going be in State College, and that’s what gave life to it.”

Thursday, the White House Office of Media Affairs issued a statement saying Obama would travel to “central Pennsylvania,” and that further details would follow.

That’s when the Internet went wild.

On its site, NBC Washington said Friday afternoon, “So let’s break it down: Central Pennsylvania. Feb. 2. What could possibly be happening in Central Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day? Maybe ... a briefing with Punxsutawney Phil?”

Later Friday, the White House updated its Thursday statement, saying that Obama would visit Penn State University.

“As part of the administration’s strategy to win the future through new investments in research and development, the Department of Energy has launched Energy Innovation Hubs across the nation,” the office said.

“Penn State will provide overall leadership for the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for energy-efficient buildings that will be located at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.”

The White House also said while at Penn State, Obama will tour labs focused on energy-efficient building solutions and deliver remarks on the importance of investing in innovation and clean energy “to put people back to work, grow the economy, and win the future,” a reference to his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Inner Circle President Bill Deeley also confirmed that Obama wouldn’t be swinging around the Weather Capital of the World next week.

“I did get a call someone in Huntington who said, ‘Do you have something to tell me?’” he said. “I said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘If he is coming, you’re the first to tell me.’”

Johnston said if Obama were coming, the Groundhog Club would have known about it weeks in advance.

“If in fact, he were coming, we would have been inundated with Secret Service for the past two weeks,” he said. “I can’t imagine with security what it is, they would allow him to show up unannounced. But it is interesting how this thing has taken to life.”

No word yet as to whether the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has come up with any new ideas for Groundhog Day, such as last year’s proposal of replacing Phil with an animatronic groundhog.

“No, nothing yet,” Deeley said Friday. “It’s early, though ... maybe Monday or Tuesday.”

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