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Don't expect many Republicans to share the rostrum with President Barack Obama when he appears this week at a Donelson high school.

Many of the Republicans in the state's congressional delegation have other commitments.

After years of largely bypassing Tennessee, Obama plans to make his second appearance in the state in six months Thursday, when he plans to give a speech at McGavock High School. Details on the event are so sketchy that they haven't even been shared with the state's political leaders, but most of Tennessee's top Republicans plan to be elsewhere when he touches down.

Of the state's 11 members of Congress, only two would commit Monday to being at the speech — U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper of Nashville and Steve Cohen of Memphis. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean also plans to accompany the president throughout his visit to the city. All three are Democrats.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam plans to greet the president at the airport, but whether he will see Obama elsewhere depends on scheduling, a spokesman said.

Obama's visit stands in contrast to previous presidential swings through Nashville. When President John F. Kennedy came in 1963, thousands thronged downtown hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Such crowds have become rare, as security teams have released less information about presidential visits in advance.

The White House has not said whether Obama's speech will be open to the public.

But even as recently as the past decade, Cooper, a lifelong Democrat, was among those who greeted Republican President George W. Bush when he visited Tennessee.

"I'm honored President Obama's visiting our state, and I'm excited to hear him speak," Cooper said through his office in Washington. "Any sitting president who spends time in Tennessee — Democrat or Republican — deserves our respect and attention."

Prior commitment

Republican members of the House of Representatives have a ready-made excuse. Obama's visit happens to coincide with a long-planned caucus retreat in Chesapeake, Md. Several said through their offices that they are committed to being there.

One Republican, however, might make it to Nashville. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais had already planned to skip the GOP retreat to attend to official business in Murfreesboro. He may be able to fit the presidential visit in, spokesman Robert Jameson said.

"I think the congressman feels he has a responsibility to his constituents to provide a conservative counterpoint to what the president is going to say," Jameson said. "His constituents expect him to be a voice of opposition."

In a Washington divided sharply along political lines, that may be the only Republican voice Obama hears.

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