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Obama Returns to White House, Plunges Back Into Politics

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia arrive on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Washington.
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia arrive on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Washington.

President Barack Obama, back at the White House after a 10-day vacation in Hawaii, plunged back into Washington politics on Tuesday, and his reelection efforts.

Mr. Obama returned to Washington the day that Republican presidential contenders seeking to replace him in November were making their final arguments in the Iowa caucuses.

White House and Obama campaign officials say the president will not fully and aggressively engage with Republicans until after results from Iowa and primary contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida narrow the Republican field.

But Mr. Obama quickly moved from vacation mode back to politics, speaking via video conference late Tuesday with Democratic supporters in Iowa, where he is the only candidate on the Democratic side of that political preference test.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president is focused at the moment on doing what he can to lower unemployment, grow the economy and help middle class Americans, and that the time will come later to address a Republican challenger. "How long the process takes in the other party to pick a nominee is really anyone's guess, so he has a lot of work to do before he engages aggressively in the general election campaign.  That will come in due time," he said.

The president's spokesman declined to give details of a speech Mr. Obama will give on Wednesday in Ohio -- a state he won in 2008 and is crucial to his hopes for a second term in office.

Carney said the remarks at a high school in a suburb of Cleveland will repeat key themes, including Mr. Obama's willingness to work around what he sees as Republican obstructionism in Congress to strengthen the economy.

White House officials say that as he intensifies his campaigning in coming months, Mr. Obama will repeat that message and draw sharp contrasts with Republican challengers, while pointing to his accomplishments since being elected in 2008.

An Obama campaign video released Tuesday contained excerpts from a speech Mr. Obama gave after he had won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, highlighting promises he made and kept, such as health care reform.

Republicans responded with their own advertisement. Their political strategy seeks to keep the focus on things such as high unemployment and an increase in the poverty rate during Mr. Obama's presidency.

On efforts to work with Congress, the president's press secretary stressed that Mr. Obama hopes that Republicans in Congress who have pursued what he called an "obstructionist path" will change direction because it is in their political interest to do so.

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