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Obama Midwest Tour to Focus on Jobs, Financial Reform

U.S. President Barack Obama (File)

U.S. President Barack Obama (File)

President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel to three states in the U.S. Midwest this week, continuing his efforts to persuade Americans that his economic policies are succeeding in moving the country out of recession. The president will also use stops in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois to urge support for financial regulatory reform legislation.

The president returns to Iowa, where his victory in the Democratic Party presidential caucuses in 2008 gave him a burst of momentum toward his eventual White House win.

Iowa and other Midwestern states have been hard hit by the recession, and the president will continue the effort he began last year of focusing on ways to put people back to work and to take advantage of new technology to create jobs.

In Fort Madison, Iowa he plans to go to Siemens Energy, where giant blades for wind turbines are manufactured. There and at two other locations, the unemployment rate is between 9 and 11 percent - far above the state-wide average of 6.8 percent.

Late Tuesday, the president is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa in a repeat of the format in which he answers questions from the audience and hears personal stories.

On Wednesday, he is scheduled to travel to Illinois, where he was a state senator before being elected to the U.S. Senate prior to his run for the White House. Illinois is also suffering from some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. He also plans to visit a biofuel plant in neighboring Missouri.

Since he achieved congressional approval of health care reform legislation, the president has shifted to pushing for passage of a bill to overhaul the nation's financial regulatory system.

Although the White House has stressed the jobs focus of the president's Midwest trip, spokesman Robert Gibbs made the case during Monday's press briefing that it is difficult to separate Americans' concerns about jobs from their concerns about financial industry behavior that led to the U.S. financial crisis.

"I don't think that any one of the 8.4 million people that lost their job since this recession started, I don't think in their world they can divorce the risky behavior of Wall Street that caused the massive economic downturn that led to 8.5 million jobs [being lost]," said Robert Gibbs. "Maybe if you have the luxury of not having lost your job, it's easier to bifurcate those two issues."

In an important test vote late Monday, and amid Republican opposition, the Senate did not move the financial reform bill forward for full debate.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post public opinion poll released on Monday, nearly two-thirds of Americans support subjecting financial institutions to stricter regulation, a slight increase since earlier this year.

The White House continues to cite improved job growth numbers in the first months of this year as proof that the president's policies are working.

Gibbs noted that when President Obama came into office, the monthly nationwide job loss figure was about 800,000 compared to a 162,000 gain last month.

Republicans continue to criticize President Obama on his economic policies, on the eve of the first meeting of the Independent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama to address rising deficits and debt.

In a statement Monday, House of Representatives Minority Leader John Boehner asserted that Americans want the president to act immediately to address what Republicans call "out-of-control spending."