Video: Obama’s bus tour swings through Midwest

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    >>> but let us begin on a tuesday morning with presidential politics and day two of president obama 's bus tour through the midwest. nbc's chief white house correspondent chuck todd is in dubuque, iowa . chuck, good morning to you.

    >> good morning. as you noted the white house insists this bus tour has nothing to do with politics. but with three of the five president's town halls in the state of iowa where republicans are constantly criss-crossing the state, it's hard to avoid it. with the president's poll numbers sinking so low that even some democrats are expressing disapproval, mr. obama revealed he's working on a post- labor day plan to fix the economy.

    >> i'll be putting forward, when they come back in september, a very specific plan to boost the economy, to create jobs, and to control our deficit. and my attitude is, get it done. and if they don't get it done, then we'll be running against a congress that's not doing anything for the american people and the choice will be very stark and will be very clear.

    >> reporter: the white house is not officially calling this bus tour a campaign trip, but it looks and sounds like one. but gone is the rhetoric of hope and change from 2008 , replaced with frustration.

    >> there is real anger and frustration, understandable, about the economic situation that we're finding ourselves in. i get that.

    >> reporter: in one heated exchange --

    >> i know et cetera not going to work if you just stand up when i ask everyone to raise their head.

    >> reporter: the head of the iowa tea party jeered them over unsubstarchs yated reports that joe biden referred to them. the two even had words after the event. in an interview with nbc news, ryan rhodes explained what he was going to say.

    >> i didn't expect anything different, continue blaming of the other side.

    >> reporter: meanwhile republican front -runner mitt romney also didn't miss a chance to attack mr. obama.

    >> frankly, i think the american people would rather see him in washington working on getting this economy going again.

    >> reporter: romney would like to focus his attacks on the president but since this weekend, he has a new target, texas republican governor rick perry .

    >> my jobs record spans not just four years as governor but 25 years i've lived in the private sector .

    >> he said that he has pry vaet sector experience and that makes him better qualified to create jobs.

    >> give him my love.

    >> what do you think about that, though, sir?

    >> i think oranges and apples. running a state is different from running a business.

    >> reporter: now, later in the evening rick perry gave a speech in cedar rapids around he had some really tough words about fed chair ben bernanke , didn't call him out by name, matt, but he said he ought to be careful going down to texas. a lot of republicans are not happy with that kind of talk early on in the campaign.

    >> chuck todd in iowa this morning. thank you. former white house press secretary robert gibbs is now an adviser to the president's re- election campaign . robert, good to see you.

    >> good morning. how are you?

    >> doing well. let's get something out of the way. if it smells like a campaign trip and looks like a campaign trip and sounds like a campaign trip, why does the white house say it's not one?

    >> look, matt, i think the president enjoys being out in america, talking to people, particularly in the midwest about what they see and what's going on. i don't think the campaign would part the president for two town hall meetings in illinois if it was a campaign.

    >> let's talk about the approval ratings. 39%% of the american people now approve of the job that president obama is doing. that's a all-time low. clearly not the news you want to run for re-election on. what's driving the numbers, in your opinion?

    >> as the president said in the opening clip, people are frustrated about this economy. i don't think there's any doubt about that. the question, matt, is what are we going to do about it, not what is the president going to do about it but what we as country is going to do about it. we've got to get congress to get back to work and pay attention to helping this economy get jobs again. we have to do it without alley allegiance to one party or one aspect of the republican party like the tea party . it's not the democrat or the republican united states of america , it's the united states of america . and that's what we have to focus on. it's frustration.

    >> frustration does not look good on a bumper sticker . clearly it doesn't look as good as when your last bumper sticker said hope and change. so how does the president get this excitement going again surrounding his re-election bid so that he can keep this office?

    >> well, look, matt, i will tell you this. first and foremost, the president is not focused on keeping his job, most of all. he's focused on creating jobs for the american people . that's what he's excited about and that's what he's focused on. i think you heard him talking about laying out specific ideas when congress gets back, let's renew tax cuts for payroll tax cuts, let's extend unemployment benefit, let's figure out how to give new tax incentive to businesses that hire new workers. i think those are the kinds of things that the president has talked about and that's the kind of thing that congress needs to act on when he gets back. again, i think you watched over the weekend and you watched that republican debate, the republicans are going to have to make a choice. are they going to swear allegiance to the tea party or are they going to work on behalf of the united states of america ? i think that's a cynical question when congress gets back.

    >> this idea that the president said he's got this new plan to jump-start the economy when congress gets back in session. when i first heard him say this over the weekend i was shaking my head thinking, where was this plan a month ago when we were in the middle of the deficit, you know, debate, the debt ceiling debate? what is new here and why should people believe it's going to work?

    >> well, look, i think part of what the president is going to talk about are things that we have going on right now. as i said, the payroll tax cuts, and other ideas that he would like to see renewed for another year that would give this economy confidence. but let's understand there are also things like increased trade, things like entrepreneur and patent reform that will help spur innovation in this economy. there are things, quite frankly , matt, that the president talked about on a number occasions that we just can't seem to get the republican house of representatives to deal with. and at some point you get to ask yourself are they not dealing with these things because, quite frankly , they just don't want to see this economy get better because they want to see an election that might turn out better for them? i think what the american people want is for people to put aside their party labels and instead work together for the united states .

    >> robert gibbs , top campaign adviser to the president. robert, good to see you as always.

    >> thank you.

    >>> nine minutes after the hour.

    >> thank you. there's been a news services
updated 8/16/2011 8:23:34 AM ET 2011-08-16T12:23:34

President Barack Obama will on Tuesday announce fresh steps to boost rural hiring on the second day of a bus tour through the U.S. heartland to explain his economic and job policies to anxious voters.

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Obama, who began his three-day tour in Minnesota, was visiting Iowa Tuesday and will end the tour in his home state of Illinois. He embarked on this bus tour along the back roads of the rural Midwest to press his case.

Tepid U.S. growth and high unemployment could dent his prospects for reelection next year, and the president is trying to persuade voters that his policies — of action to boost growth now, coupled with deficit reduction — are the best path.

Obama won all three states in the 2008 presidential election, although Iowa has recently played host to Republicans vying to battle him for the White House next year. They have been criticizing his record over the ballooning U.S. deficit.

Story: Obama criticizes GOP presidential field

The tour, on a plain black bus with blacked-out windows and flashing police lights, also exposes the president to voters who, polls suggest, are furious about the gridlock in Washington.

However, the crowds he faced on Monday were pretty friendly, and many of the questions were challenging him to take a tougher line against Republicans.

The White House says Obama is on a listening tour to hear from Americans about the economy and talk about how to boost jobs and hiring.

With U.S. unemployment mired at just above 9 percent, jobs are expected to be the central issue for voters in next year's presidential and congressional elections.

Obama plans to put forward a very specific plan for economic growth when Congress returns from summer recess in September, and has challenged lawmakers to take action.

Video: Obama’s bus tour swings through Midwest (on this page)

He has repeatedly called for Congress to extend a payroll tax cut, finalize free-trade pacts and promote infrastructure projects to create construction jobs.

But his hands are tied by a divided Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives and oppose any significant spending measures to stimulate growth.

Funding for small businesses
Obama will spend much of Tuesday at a rural economic forum in Iowa, and will unveil $350 million in funding for small businesses over the next 5 years — not the big plan to be presented to Congress next month, but help all the same.

"These are tough times for a lot of Americans — including those who live in our rural communities," Obama will tell a town-hall meeting in Peosta, Iowa, according to prepared remarks.

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At the forum, he will unveil a number of other ideas to boost the rural economy and its communities, including improving access to private capital, expanding job search and training services, and improving rural access to healthcare.

The unmistakable campaign style of the trip will help the president test his organization and grassroots support as the field of Republican presidential candidates takes clearer shape.

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican nomination on Saturday and immediately joined early front-runner Mitt Romney and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann in the top tier of candidates in the field.

Video: Gregory: Perry has an economic message (on this page)

The economic message of the tour illustrates Obama's current dilemma.

Republicans control the House and believe that addressing the nation's long-term debt will have a positive effect on the economy; they have no appetite for major spending initiatives aimed at spurring a recovery.

Embracing that demand for fiscal discipline, Obama has called for both spending cuts and increases in revenue, but he found few takers for that formula during the contentious debate this summer over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

With echoes of Harry Truman's 1948 campaign against a "do-nothing" Congress, Obama encouraged audiences at town hall meetings Monday in Minnesota and Iowa to rise up against congressional inaction.

"If your voices are heard, then sooner or later these guys have to start paying attention," he said. "And if they don't start paying attention then they're not going to be in office and we will have a new Congress in there that will start paying attention to what is going on all across America."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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