* Obama boarding the bus to talk up jobs
* Plans 3-day tour of U.S. heartland Aug 15-17
* Jobs vital to Obama re-election in 2012
(Recasts, adds Obama, Carney quotes, background)
By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON, Aug 3 President Barack Obama will
take a three-day campaign-style bus tour through the American
Midwest this month, as he tries to refocus attention on jobs
seen as vital to his chances of winning re-election in 2012.
The president will be on the road between Aug. 15 and Aug.
17 "listening" to the American people about jobs and the
economy, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Obama's approval ratings have been dented by persistently
high U.S. unemployment and acrimonious negotiations in
Washington to raise the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
These talks dragged on for months and hammered the stock
market as they crept right up to an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid
default, disgusting many Americans and dimming their view of
politicians of all stripe.
Polls showed that many blame Republicans more than they do
Obama, a Democrat, for the mess. But his party knows that it
has a lot to lose from public anger toward Washington.
This provides a strong incentive for Obama to change the
conversation to jobs, the dominant concern among voters ahead
of the 2012 election, as he heads to the U.S. heartland after
being trapped in Washington for weeks by the deficit talks.
Obama wants Congress to extend the payroll tax cut and
emergency unemployment benefits, due to expire at the end of
this year, and says he will be talking about other ideas to
lift the economy in coming weeks.
"The American people have been continuing to worry about
the underlying state of the economy, about jobs, about their
wages," he told reporters before a Cabinet meeting.
Obama's remarks came as he heralded a deal to shrink the
deficit by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years, which removes
the risk of default but could limit the scope for additional
government spending to encourage more hiring.
Carney, acknowledging there was "no magic bullet" to bring
the level of unemployment down, said the administration was
refocusing attention on jobs now the debt deal was done.
Part of the deficit package includes the creation of a
special congressional commission to consider ways to lower the
deficit that is expected to review reforms to entitlement
programs like Medicare, as well as the U.S. tax code.
"The creation of a super committee in Congress to consider
additional deficit cuts ensures that the budget battle will
continue throughout the year in Congress," said Alex Brill, a
research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in
Washington. "The president needs to find new agenda items to
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Laura MacInnis;
Editing by Xavier Briand)