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Obama lobbies for Chicago

COPENHAGEN - President Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail again.

Obama is going to Copenhagen after all, joining first lady Michelle Obama to support Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. Obama plans to leave Washington on Thursday, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told The Associated Press on Monday, getting to Denmark in time to be part of his adopted hometown's final presentation to the International Olympic Committee.

'His physical presence just magnifies all of what he's been saying,' Chicago 2016 chairman Pat Ryan said, a big smile on his face. 'It just puts a huge exclamation point on the support of the bid and the support of the Olympic movement and the respect for the movement and the respect for the IOC members themselves.'

The question remains whether his presence will give Chicago the edge over Madrid, Tokyo and slight favorite Rio de Janeiro in Friday's vote.

The contest is tight, with the decision expected to come down to a few votes. While IOC president Jacques Rogge has taken great pains to say government leaders aren't expected to make an appearance, their presence has been instrumental in recent votes.

When London was vying for the 2012 Olympics, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, went to Singapore ahead of the vote and spent two days lobbying IOC members. This was no cruise-through-the-lobby, shake-a-few-hands type of thing. He invited IOC members to his hotel suite for one-on-one meetings, and his sincerity made a huge impression on voters.

Two years later, Vladimir Putin did much the same thing as Russian president in support of Sochi's bid for the 2014 Olympics. He also broke with his usual practice of speaking Russian, delivering his portion of the final presentation in English.

Obama will have little, if any, time to meet personally with IOC members - but his wife will. She plans to spend Wednesday and Thursday meeting individual members, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett sat down with Blair last week for advice on how best to navigate the process.

'One conversation or one example or illustration that connects could make the difference,' Michelle Obama said.

Obama's power and personality will make an impact, IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg said. But members have already spent much time studying each bid and reading the evaluation committee's report.

'I am not sure that it is the best thing that could happen,' Heiberg said.

Of course, it's not as if the other three cities - Rio, in particular - are scrimping on the A-listers. Madrid has King Juan Carlos and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said Monday he'll be there, too.