With the U.S. economic recovery and President Barack Obama’s approval ratings both lagging, the president is discussing the economy with people in rural areas of the Midwest. Mr. Obama was in Iowa on Tuesday, promoting his message in the state for a second straight day.
Concerns about the nation’s struggling economy have led to the lowest approval rating of Mr. Obama’s presidency - 39 percent in the latest Gallup poll.
As part of a three-day Midwestern bus tour, the president has been visiting small towns in Iowa to reassure people that times will improve. “We will get through this moment of challenge," he said. "The only question is if, as a nation, we are going to do what it takes to grow this economy and put people back to work right now. And can we get our politics to match up with the decency of our people?”
In the small town of Peosta, Mr. Obama said political battles in Washington are holding back the economic recovery. “The only thing that is preventing us from passing the bills I just mentioned is the refusal of a faction in Congress to put country ahead of party, and that has to stop. Our economy cannot afford it," he said.
The president spoke at a White House-sponsored rural economic forum. He met with farmers, bankers, small business owners, government officials and others about what can be done to strengthen the economy in America’s small towns.
White House officials insist the bus tour is not a campaign trip, but a way for the president to listen to Americans’ concerns about the economy.
But opposition Republican presidential candidates have been campaigning in Iowa, in hopes of winning the state’s caucuses early next year - an important test in the bid for their party’s nomination.
One of those candidates, Texas Governor Rick Perry, stirred controversy Tuesday when he called Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “almost traitorous” for his monetary policies. Perry also said Bernanke would receive “ugly” treatment if he visited Texas.
The comments drew sharp criticism from Democrats and Republicans. White House spokesman Jay Carney said a candidate for president needs to think about what he is saying because his words have “greater impact.”
Bernanke was appointed by Mr. Obama’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and a former Bush White House spokesman called Perry’s remarks inappropriate and unpresidential.
Many Republicans are dismissing the president’s Midwest trip as a political move when stronger efforts are needed to improve the economy.
Mr. Obama’s tour concludes Wednesday in his home state of Illinois. He then returns to Washington, ahead of a 10-day vacation to Martha's Vineyard in the northeastern state of Massachusetts.