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Obama Wraps Midwest Tour, Heads for Vacation

U.S. President Barack Obama is pictured as the sun breaks through clouds at a town hall-style event in Alpha, Illinois, August 17, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama begins a 10-day vacation Thursday, after spending the first half of the week touring the rural Midwest listening to concerns from residents about the economy.

The president travels Thursday to Martha's Vineyard, in the northeastern state of Massachusetts.

Some critics have faulted Obama for vacationing during a time of economic difficulty and picking the wealthy resort island for his family trip.

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said he does not think Americans would be opposed to the president spending some time with his family. He said there is "no such thing as a presidential vacation," as Obama will be in constant communication with staff and receive regular briefings from his national security and economic teams.

Obama said Wednesday, as he wrapped up a three-day, three-state Midwestern tour, that he will present a proposal early next month to help the economy and cut the nation's massive budget deficit.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said he thought President Obama would have done that much sooner.

Many Republican lawmakers oppose Democratic calls to raise taxes on high-income earners and eliminate tax breaks for big corporations, saying such steps will hurt job creation and undermine the sluggish economic recovery.

Illinois was the final stop on the bus tour that also took the president to Minnesota and Iowa.

Republicans criticized the tour, calling it a campaign trip paid for by taxpayers. Republican presidential candidates also have attacked Obama's record on the economy, with the recovery fading and unemployment still above 9 percent.

An opinion poll published by Gallup this week gave the president a 39 percent job approval rating, the lowest since he took office. Other polls give Congress a much lower approval rating.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.