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Obama's $3M Chicago Olympics Pitch Falls Short of the Gold

So much for all the speculation that President Obama went to Copenhagen because the fix was in for Chicago.

Otherwise, why would he put the prestige of his high office on the line by making an expensive, time-consuming, high-profile trans-Atlantic trip only to return home empty-handed.

"We're obviously disappointed that we didn't win," says White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton. "The president did everything he could to bring the Olympics to our country."

In fact, he was the first U.S. president ever to make a personal appeal to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of an American city seeking to host the games.

He spoke of Chicago in heartfelt terms.

"It's a bustling metropolis with the warmth of a small town; where the world already comes together every day to live and work and reach for a dream."

The White House billed the trip as an "official" journey, so taxpayers picked up the costs for the slightly more than 14-hour round trip on Air Force One. The Defense Department pegs the operating costs for the president's 747 at $100,219 per flight hour. Double it to include the backup plane that always accompanies the president. Add the costs of the Air Force 757 that Mrs. Obama used to fly to Copenhagen earlier in the week. It adds up to nearly $3-million dollars. And that doesn't include the aircraft used to fly the presidential limousines and Secret Service vehicles there as well.

Obama on Olympics Effort: It was Worth it

At first, Mr. Obama had decided against a daytrip to Denmark on behalf of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 summer games.

"I would make the case in Copenhagen personally, if I weren't so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American," he said on September 16th, while hosting an Olympics event on the South Lawn.

He announced that day that he was sending "a more compelling superstar" to make the case for Chicago's bid: the first lady.

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Photo Essay: Chicago's Bid

But a few days later the president started having second thoughts. Maybe he should go. The White House sent an advance team to Copenhagen last week and on Monday, officially announced Mr. Obama changed his mind and would make the trip in order to deliver a personal pitch for his adopted hometown. But to no avail.

Senior advisor David Axelrod says Chicago's elimination was a disappointment, but Mr. Obama "takes things in stride."

"He'll take this and he'll move on," said Axelrod of the president, "and I know he won't regret having gone."

The president drew fire from Republicans and other critics who said his time would have been better spent working on his new strategy for Afghanistan and fixing the economy.

And might the president's involvement have had a negative impact on the IOC's consideration of Chicago's bid? Axelrod doesn't think so, though he has suspicions about the Olympic Committee.

He said Mr. Obama is held in "very high esteem by leaders around the world." But Axelrod thinks "there are internal politics at the IOC that were at play" and the president's appearance wasn't enough to overcome them.

He's not the first American to return home from the Olympics without the gold.

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Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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