Hoops and diplomacy for British prime minister's visit

British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in New York in September 2011.

Story highlights

  • Prime minister, president take in NCAA basketball tourney game in Ohio
  • Obama is "going to help me fill out my bracket," Cameron says
  • The White House stresses a special relationship with Britain
  • Cameron and Obama will hold talks Wednesday
President Barack Obama gave a nod to America's heartland Tuesday, saying in an interview conducted during halftime of an NCAA basketball game in Ohio he wanted to show his British counterpart, David Cameron, a part of America rarely seen by foreign visitors.
"I thought it was going to be wonderful for the prime minister to have a chance not only to see a basketball game for first time, but also to come to the great state of Ohio, because sometimes when we have foreign visitors, they only see the coasts, they go to New York, they go to Washington, they go to Los Angeles, but you know the heartland is what it's all about," Obama said.
Obama's hat tip to Ohio, and his choice of venue, may not be pure coincidence -- Ohio is historically a key swing state in presidential elections.
Cameron and Obama flew together on Air Force One to Dayton, Ohio, to take in an opening game of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Obama, well-known as a basketball fan, was treating Cameron to a little March Madness, and the pair conducted the joint television interview at halftime of the game between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.
Asked how he thought the teams were playing, Obama replied candidly.
"Both teams are shooting terribly," Obama said. "It may be nerves. These are not teams that normally end up coming to the tournament."
Cameron, asked how he was enjoying watching his first basketball game, said he was "enjoying it," and that Obama was explaining the ins-and-outs of the American sport.
"He was giving me some tips," Cameron said. "He's going to help me fill out my bracket."
Cameron's trip to the United States is intended to demonstrate that ties between the countries remain as close as ever.
The White House labeled Cameron's visit -- which started Tuesday and will include meetings with President Barack Obama followed by lunch and dinner at the White House on Wednesday -- an official one, not a state one.
That's because the label of state visit is reserved for heads of state, and Cameron is the head of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.
However, the White House statement said Cameron would attend a state dinner Wednesday night, the sixth of the Obama administration so far.
"The fact that we are hosting the prime minister in the manner that we are demonstrates the nature of the relationship between our two countries; the fact that it is a special relationship," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Cameron and Obama will hold talks at the White House and address a joint news conference, followed by lunch and, later, the White House dinner with full diplomatic trappings and toasts.
Cameron and his wife, Samantha, will leave Washington on Thursday.
"The visit will highlight the fundamental importance of the U.S.-U.K. special relationship and the depth of the friendship between the American people and the people of the United Kingdom, as well as the strong personal bond that has developed between the two leaders and their families," a White House statement said.
Topics expected to come up at Wednesday's meetings include the coming NATO and G-8 summits, as well as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iran and the global economy, according to the White House.
In a joint op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, Obama and Cameron emphasized the global benefits of the strong alliance between their nations.
"The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share," the two leaders wrote. "But what makes our relationship special -- a unique and essential asset -- is that we join hands across so many endeavors. Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance."
Troops and citizens of the two countries "have long shown what can be achieved when British and Americans work together, heart and hand, and why this remains an essential relationship -- to our nations and the world," the commentary by Obama and Cameron said.