I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around

But I couldn't take the punishment, and had to settle down

Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes I cut my hair

You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care

because I can tell what's going on

It's hip to be square.

These lyrics from Huey Lewis' 1980s song, Hip to be Square, in a way relates to the differences between our two presidential choices, President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.

While the Romney camp is sharpening its attack on the Obama record, we can expect the president to try and revive some of that enthusiasm that propelled him to the White House four years ago. The twenty-something voting crowd, so much a part of that 2008 campaign run, is the big reason why we saw Obama fly to three campuses last week, each located in states crucial to his re-election.

It was funny to hear White House spokesman Jay Carney defend the president's trips to North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa with words like "official business" and "policy issue." Although the president tried to disguise it as a fight for student loan rates, these trips were nothing more than full-blown campaign pep rallies to win over young voters.

House Speaker John Boehner saw through the charade, calling the president's "fake fight" with Congress over student loan rates for what it was – "pathetic."

"This is beneath the dignity of the White House," Boehner said, in calling on the administration to reimburse the president for taxpayer-funded travel.

We agree. This was all about campaign re-election.

Flying Obama to those three campuses last week so he could conduct his "official business" cost the taxpayer about $180,000 an hour, just in air time aboard Air Force One. When you factor in the advance teams, cargo planes, armored cars, Secret Service protection, communications and medical staff, the president's travel expenses quickly surpass anthing his so-called "top one-percent class" would spend.

"This is the biggest job in the world, and I've never seen a president make it smaller," Boehner said.

During his "policy" speeches at the three campuses, Obama managed to use his bully pulpit to hammer on Republicans.

"They voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits. They voted to let millionaires and billionaire keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers," Obama said at the University of Iowa campus last week.

Since we hear those same words in nearly every speech, a video might have served just as well, and would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less to the taxpayers who funded the trip.

Don't expect any Obama pep rallies about the economy any time soon. When the president took office, his advisers released an analysis that promised his stimulus bill would prevent the unemployment rate from rising over 8 percent.

We're still waiting.

Nor can we expect to hear much about the price of a gallon of gas, which has more than doubled under his watch.

Playing the cool card, like Russian leader Vladimir Putin occasionally tries to do (going shirtless in front of the cameras is one example), might play well in other countries but we believe the American people can see through this.

Seeing a president on the cover of Rolling Stone or hearing him croon a line from soul singer Al Green doesn't do anything for the taxpayers. Nor does working the cool guy routine on campus to lure young voters.

A person with a vision for America, who can get the economy turned round, save us money at the gas pumps, and believe in the ideals that once made this nation a powerful and respected leader of the free world, does.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com