May 25th, 2012
12:53 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama rarely misses an opportunity to talk about the help his administration is offering to military veterans and their families. “We will care and serve our veterans the way they've served us,” Mr. Obama said at a recent campaign event out west.
His message may be grounded in policy but in this election season it’s also about the politics.
His re-election campaign is actively courting veterans who have traditionally supported Republicans.
"It's door-to-door, person-to-person, grocery store-to-grocery store. Letting people know the president's record on his policies to veterans," said Beau Biden, an Iraq veteran and the vice president’s son, who is part of the campaign’s grassroots effort “Veterans and Military Families for Obama.”
Team Obama is looking for voters like Josh Prentice. He’s a recent graduate of the George Washington University Law School who serve with the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment in Iraq.
He’s a proud veteran and a loyal Republican.
"I’m not sure why I initially decided I was Republican but over time I knew that I was especially on foreign affairs issues and defense issues.” He said. “The first presidential election I could vote in was 2004, and I voted for President Bush.”
But for the first time he’s looking to both the right and the left. He likes former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, yet President Obama’s foreign policy has gotten his attention.
“He’s impressed me with the way he led the drawdown in Iraq and in Afghanistan as well and having a coherent plan or at least seems to have a coherent plan on how things are going to progress there.”
The killing of Osama Bin Laden has also won over some former critics.
That’s part of the sales pitch Democrats are making, that President Obama has been tough on terrorists and that he ended one war and is winding down another.
They’re also getting help from First Lady Michelle Obama, who has long promoted help for veterans and their families. While White House aides insist her work is not political, she did join the president in a web video promoting the new campaign.
Republicans say this outreach is honorable but they’re skeptical of an election year appeal to veterans.
"They deserve support every day of the year, but not just when it's convenient, a convenient time in our nation's history," said former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi who is pitching Mitt Romney and his policies to veterans and their families.
“We'll be doing our work as aggressively as we possibly can to make sure that the veterans understand who Governor Romney is and will cast their vote for him.”
He and other Republicans are using deep defense budget cuts and concerns about America’s military strength to raise doubts about the president’s policies.
On the Military Times website one veteran posted, “I simply can't vote for a President who advocates deep military cuts to those who gave so much to our nation.” Another was more pointed. “I’m at the VFW fairly often and the talk is always what a crap job he’s done.”
Prentice is still on the fence. He hopes the debates will help him decide which way to go.
“I think that either Mitt Romney or President Obama could you know reach out to me almost in a way that can impress me to vote for them.”
CNN White House producer Lesa Jansen contributed to this report
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