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Pivoting from debt fight, Obama plans jobs-focused bus tour

August 03, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images )

President Obama plans to barnstorm the Midwest later this month in an effort to shift his focus back on the economy and boost his sagging poll numbers after the grueling debt-ceiling fight.

The weeks of sausage-making in Washington during the spending fight took a toll on all involved. Obama's job approval rating sank to 40% last week in Gallup's daily tracking poll -- the lowest score of his term. Congress fared even worse; a CNN/Opinion Research poll showed just 14% of Americans approved of its performance, while 84% disapproved -- the worst score ever recorded.

With the debt deal now law, members of Congress may have done the best possible thing: leave town in a hurry. And soon Obama will take the same course, making what the White House says is a long-scheduled bus tour of the heartland to reengage with the American people.

Photos: White House debt negotiations

Obama hasn't left the greater Washington area for more than a month, instead staying close to the White House for negotiations with congressional leaders on a plan to cut spending and avoid a looming federal default.

That changes Wednesday with a trip to Chicago for fund-raisers for Obama's reelection campaign. But the White House says the president "very much looks forward" to the opportunity he'll have on a three-day bus trip later this month to make his case for his vision to boost the economy and job creation.

"It is absolutely important for the president ... to get out and hear from people in different communities," spokesman Jay Carney said at his daily briefing Wednesday.

The trip is scheduled from Aug. 15 to 17. No other specifics were given, including which Midwest states he'd visit. But the administration has been focusing of late on one of the few bright spots in the economy: a resurgent manufacturing sector.

Obama on Tuesday discussed some of the measures he hoped to work with Congress on after the August recess, including patent reform, trade deals, an infrastructure bank and an extension of payroll tax holiday.

Republicans have mocked the White House's latest declaration that they were "pivoting" back to jobs -- something they've said they would do multiple times before.

Carney responded that Obama "has been focusing on jobs and the economy since the day he was sworn into office," but that the debt-ceiling crisis -- a "manufactured" crisis -- did crowd his agenda.

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