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Obama embarks on bus tour to sell his economic agenda

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama departs the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, for a short flight to nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md., then on to Minnesoa, where he begins a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As the economy continues to sputter, the Republican presidential contest heats up and his poll numbers sink, President Obama is embarking on a three-day bus tour that seems to be designed to convince Americans he can restore the economy with another term in office.

The president will visit five small Midwestern towns this week, starting with Cannon Falls, Minnesota. From there he'll travel to Iowa, and then to northwestern Illinois.

The itinerary will provide a fairly positive setting for Mr. Obama, as the National Journal points out. In 2008, Mr. Obama won four of the five congressional districts he's visiting and only lost Minnesota's district by 1.5 points. On top of that, all five cities are faring relatively well economically, sparing the president's bus tour any painful contrasts with signs of hardship, like rows houses facing foreclosure.

Asked about the fact that Mr. Obama's bus tour will take him to areas with relatively low unemployment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today that the president wants to observe economic strategies that are working and potentially apply them to the rest of the country.

When the president takes his message directly to voters this week, he's expected to hammer Republicans for obstructing his agenda. In his weekly radio address on Saturday, he told voters they have "a right to be frustrated" and that he's frustrated as well. "Because you deserve better, " he said. "I don't think it's too much for you to expect that the people you send to this town start delivering."

At the same time, the president is focused on working toward economic policy goals that are achievable in the current, hyper-partisan economic climate, the New York Times reports, such as the jobs program for veterans Mr. Obama unveiled earlier this month.

As part of its efforts, unnamed officials told the New York Times, the administration could even attempt to merge the Commerce Department, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and other agencies into a new agency, dubbed something like the "Department of Jobs" or "Department of Competitiveness."

Still, Mr. Obama is interested in achieving bipartisan support for a major deficit reduction plan, as the so-called congressional "super committee" comes together to form a plan by the end of the year.

The president will have to sell his ideas to a skeptical public -- 15 months ahead of the 2012 election, the latest Gallup poll puts Mr. Obama's approval rating at just 39 percent.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential contenders, who were in Iowa over the weekend for the Ames Straw Poll, have been hammering him on the economy.

The GOP isn't stopping at Mr. Obama hits the road. Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus is in Cannon Falls, Mr. Obama's first stop today, to dub the president's road trip, "Obama's Debt-End Tour." The RNC is launching a multimedia campaign in the region Mr. Obama is traveling to criticize his record on the economy.

The White House told reporters that Mr. Obama's bus tour, which is employing two new Secret Service buses, is an official trip rather than a campaign trip and that he's taking the opportunity to engage with the American people.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that such a bus trip "isn't just an appropriate thing for a president to do, it's something that a president should do."

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