Obama embarks on campaign-style Midwest tour

WASHINGTON Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:00am EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the lowering of the U.S. credit rating and the Afghan helicopter crash in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, August 8, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the lowering of the U.S. credit rating and the Afghan helicopter crash in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, August 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hits the road on Monday for a Midwestern bus tour that he hopes will leave doubts over his leadership behind in Washington.

But the three-day trip through Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois -- three states seen as vital to his 2012 re-election campaign -- could put him in front of voters who, polls show, are furious about political gridlock in the U.S. capital.

Iowa, which launched Obama's historic journey to the White House in 2008, has recently been playing host to Republican presidential hopefuls who have aggressively slammed his record as they criss-cross the state.

The White House says the president is on listening tour to hear from Americans about the economy and to talk about how to boost jobs and hiring. There are no plans for a major policy speech to roll out new initiatives for growth.

The unmistakable campaign style of the trip will help Obama, a Democrat, test his organization and grassroots support as the Republican presidential field begins to take shape.

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican nomination on Saturday and is expected to join Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann as one of the stronger Republican candidates. Bachmann won an Iowa straw poll on Saturday in the first big test for the Republican candidates.

White House communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said Iowa had a special connection for Obama and told reporters that the U.S. leader was excited to be able to finally escape from Washington.

His departure follows a brutal period of bad news that dented confidence in his leadership, particularly after a bitter debate over raising the U.S. debt limit that exposed deep partisanship bordering on government dysfunction.

A leading ratings agency has downgraded the nation's AAA credit rating and fears of another U.S. recession have grown, adding to investor concerns about Europe's ongoing debt crisis. Stock markets whipsawed over the past week, producing one of the most volatile periods of Obama's presidency.

Polls show many Americans think the country is on the wrong track and are deeply anxious about their future, amid sluggish economic growth and an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent.

Obama's approval ratings have taken a hit but he remains more popular than U.S. lawmakers, who prompted public anger for pushing the country to the brink of default during the debt limit negotiations.

"All people see out of Washington is conflict and dysfunction," said Ryan McConaghy, director of economic policy at Third Way, a non-partisan thinktank in Washington.

"For the president to go out and really talk about why his agenda is going to help people, it is going to be a lot easier for him to do that, and a lot more effective for him to do that in their communities," McConaghy said.

Obama speaks at a townhall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota on Monday before heading to Decorah, Iowa.

He will hold a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa, on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he will hold town hall meetings in Atkinson and Alpha, Illinois before returning to Washington.

The president gave a hint of the kind of things he will say on his trip during a weekly radio address on Saturday, playing on public frustration with the Congress.

"We can no longer let partisan brinksmanship get in our way -- the idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right," the president said.

Obama is still holding well in all three states, with a Gallup tracking poll showing him with a 54 percent approval rating in his home state of Illinois, 52 percent in Minnesota and 49 percent in Iowa.

In 2008 he won all three states, which collectively make up 36 of the 270 Electoral College votes he will need to retain the White House next year.

In U.S. presidential elections, the winner of the popular vote does not necessarily win the presidency. That decision falls to the Electoral College, party faithful allotted to each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their representation in the U.S. Congress or population.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (11)
ginchinchili wrote:
When Obama gave his famous speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention I, too, was very impressed and thought, he’s a guy who’s going to be around in US politics for a long time, and maybe someday as POTUS. My guess was that he’d run in 2012 or 2116. To my surprise, he ran in 2008, which I thought was too soon and why he didn’t gain my vote.

I like Obama. I think he’s a good man, a smart man, and has many strong leadership qualities. If I had to put up with what he’s been through by now my brain would have melted and dribbled into a grey puddle on the floor, to be mopped up by a dirty sponge mop, set aside and dried out in some musky, dark, unfrequented pantry. The man holds up well. But I think my original take on him was accurate, that he didn’t have enough experience yet. During less extreme times he might have been an excellent president, but not during these times, times during which the US is being challenged like during the 1930s-40s or during the 1860s. We need stronger leadership than what Obama can offer. The problem is that there is no Republican or Democrat on the horizon who fits the bill. The US is leaderless.

So now Obama wants to take a bus tour to a few strategically planned towns, thinking he can woo us again with eloquent speeches. But we already know what the end result is going to be: brave talk followed by capitulation to extreme Republican demands.

I want to hear someone declare war against the corruption in Washington, and until we hear that battle cry, don’t expect to see much change take place in our beloved US of A. And you’re not going to hear THAT from Obama, or from anyone in this crop of Republican candidates.

These Republican candidates could have all traded speeches with each other yesterday in Iowa and no one would have noticed anything different. They’re all rightwing extremist cookie cutter candidates that aren’t offering anything new. Heck, they’re not even offering much of anything that’s old.

Aug 14, 2011 2:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
tranqwill wrote:
1) The illegal immigration problem HAS to be addressed and immediately.
2) The free trade agreements have GOT to stop and immediately. Repeal NAFTA and all the others.
3) Financial regulation needs to be put in place immediately.
4) Wall Street needs have dire restrictions placed on it, especially frequency of trading and insider trading.
5) The entire trucking industry needs to be converted to use natural gas rather than diesel fuel.
6) Balance the trade deficit, make the playing field for American workers more even.
7) Remember and USE the lessons from “The Tower of Babel” story. Globalization FAILS!!!
8) End these useless and expensive wars NOW and bring our people home. If need be let them patrol our own borders and work on our infrastructure.

Aug 14, 2011 3:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Unmistakeable wrote:
Seems all this guy does is campaign. Too bad he doesn’t put that much effort into the job he was elected to.

Aug 14, 2011 3:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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