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Straw poll rebuttal? Iowa bus tour isn't political, White House says

August 12, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama shakes hands after arriving Thursday at Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich.
President Obama shakes hands after arriving Thursday at Gerald Ford International… (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images )

President Obama's three-day tour of the Midwest next week includes two stops in Iowa, a state that the Republicans hoping to unseat him in 2012 have been saturating for much of the week.

He'll arrive barely 48 hours after the results of this weekend's straw poll are announced. But the timing is purely coincidental, the White House said Friday.

"We sort of have a rule, which is just because Republican candidates are campaigning in a certain state, that doesn't prevent us from going there. Because otherwise we would probably travel nowhere," communications director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters. "There's no magic to the fact that the straw poll is a few days before our visit."

Photos: Scenes From Iowa - Republicans at the State Fair

Even if the White House won't admit that the trip has a political dimension, that doesn't mean they aren't watching what goes on in Iowa this week.

Earlier Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest seized on one moment in particular from Thursday's GOP debate, when the candidates were asked if they would accept a budget deal that included $1 in new tax revenues for every $10 in spending cuts. All said they would reject it.

"That basically puts these candidates in a position of not even asking corporate jet owners to assume one-tenth of the burden that we’re asking college students to bear. ... They would not even consider asking millionaires and billionaires to bear one-tenth of the burden that middle-class families would be asked to bear in a deficit reduction package," Earnest told reporters at a White House briefing. "That's clearly not where the American people are."

Obama's trip is billed as an Economic Bus Tour, and also includes one stop in Minnesota and two more in Illinois. The president is expected to discuss his plan to expand the economy and strengthen the middle class, the White House said, with a particular focus on rural communities.

One day after the president castigated Republicans for blocking his economic proposals in Congress and pledged to outline additional measures in the coming weeks, aides said not to expect any major policy announcements during the trip.

"The president is excited at the opportunity to get out of Washington during the debt ceiling debate. We were trapped here, it felt like, for many, many weeks," Pfeiffer said.

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