President Obama heads to Louisiana Tuesday to tour the flood-stricken disaster area amid lingering criticism over his decision to remain on vacation golfing in Martha's Vineyard last week instead of visiting the state.
The White House has tried to brush aside the complaints as desperate moves from Republicans looking to make political hay over anything in the final months of an intense presidential campaign.
But the criticism has been particularly difficult for the president to shake, considering he slammed a vacationing President George W. Bush in 2005 for a fly-over Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.
One Internet ad created by conservative group ForAmerica spliced a video of Obama golfing in Martha's Vineyard last week against footage of him criticizing Bush as a "president who only saw the people from the window of the airplane instead of down here on the ground." The group says the video has gone viral, attracting 4.3 million views as of Monday afternoon.
The visit by the president also seems too little too late, coming five days after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, toured Baton Rouge-area neighborhoods damaged by the floods and delivered supplies to displaced victims.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has said she too will visit the area when she feels like the tour and media attention won't interfere with the recovery efforts.
Eric Trump, son of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, argued Monday that his father's visit to Louisiana spurred Obama to schedule his own trip there.
"Quite frankly, if my father didn't go down there and he didn't put the pressure on him, Obama wouldn't be down there," Eric Trump said Monday on "Fox and Friends."
The White House later Monday brushed aside the claim when asked about whether that's why Obama is making the trip.
"Of course not," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said indignantly in response to the question.
But the criticism isn't just coming from the Trump camp and other Republicans. The Baton Rouge Advocate, the state's largest newspaper, editorialized that "a disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the president at ground zero, and said Obama is "already late to this crisis, but it's better late than never."
Red Cross and other national relief officials also hoped Obama's visit could still bring much-needed attention to the flood disaster.
Earnest Monday rejected the paper's comments, arguing that the president has been focused on the response on the ground through his vacation — a federal government response, which he said has been "effective."
"You don't just have to take my word for it — I would refer you to local officials in Louisiana who have said very positive things about the federal response, including Republicans," he said.
"There's an all-too common temptation to focus on the politics and to focus on the optics," Earnest said. "But the survivors of the flooding in Louisiana are not well served by a political discussion. They're well served by a competent, effective, strong and coordinated government response … and the federal government has certainly done our part in the first eight to 10 days after this disaster but there is a long road ahead."
Still, nothing can quite compare to a presidential visit when it comes to shifting national attention to a disaster zone, national relief officials say.
"Any time the president goes to a disaster scene, the American public pays attention, the media pays attention," Brad Kieserman, vice president of disaster operations and logistics for the American Red Cross told USA Today Monday. "I think possibly even more important than all of that is that the survivors of the disaster genuinely feel like their government is paying attention to them."
Local and state officials have complained in recent days that the disaster, which has left 13 dead and damaged tens of thousands of homes, has yet to capture the nation's attention amid the end of the Olympic games in Rio and Obama's two-week vacation to Martha's Vineyard.
Save the Children, a disaster relief group focused on children's needs in emergencies around the world, said Obama's visit to the flood zone is a moment for the media and the "whole nation to grasp how widespread the damage here truly is."
"We hope the attention also spotlights the less-visible, but extremely concerning challenges that children here face," said Sarita Fritzler, the group's team leader in Baton Rouge. "…Families here feel forgotten. They're in desperate need of a turning point that will drive more resources to their aid."