President Barack Obama embarks Monday on a three-day bus trip through in small towns across the Midwest to talk about job creation and to distance himself from the partisan feud over the debt ceiling that he said poisoned the economy.
White House advisers told the Kansas City Star that it was a chance for Obama — who spent the last month in Washington as lawmakers blamed each other for the debt impasse — "to hit the reset button and connect with ordinary Americans in a bus that could roll into small towns, rather than Air Force One."
"Democrats, independents and Republicans expect to see their president of the United States outside of Washington, D.C., out from behind the podium, spending time talking to the American people in their communities," White House spokesman Josh Earnest reportedly said.
Obama railed against partisan politics Saturday during the presidential weekly address, CNN reports:
"There’s nothing wrong with our country," he declared. "There is something wrong with our politics.”
Citing “brinkmanship” as an obstacle to growing the economy and creating jobs, the president criticized "the idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right."
"That’s what’s holding us back,” he said. "Some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than see America win."
Polls find that the bitter partisan standoff over raising the debt ceiling, the stock market turmoil of the past week and a persistent unemployment has left Americans more pessimistic about the economy and their future than at any time this year.
The LA Times reports on a series of polls:
- A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows just 14 percent of voters approve of Congress's job performance, while 84 percent disapprove — both records.
- A CBS/New York Times poll has similar numbers — 14 percent approve and 82 percent disapprove of Congress' job performance, the latter an all-time high.
- A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll puts Congress' approval even lower — 10 percent. That's a drop from 20 percent in late June.
- Just 18 percent of registered voters in a Washington Post survey said they were inclined to vote to re-elect their representative in Congress — the lowest number in more than two decades (only once before had it ever dipped below 30 percent).
Meanwhile, a poll conducted for McClatchy Newspapers suggests that while voters don't blame Obama for the economy, his favorability rating has plummeted to the lowest levels of his term in other polls.
"The president does anticipate that he'll detect a little frustration about the dysfunction in Congress, and the strident position of some in Congress to put their partisan affiliation ahead of the country," Earnest said.
However, Republicans are accusing Obama of mixing policy with politics by touring the Midwest, a "battleground region" — and at taxpayer expense, the Kansas City Star reports.
Obama will travel to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, three states he won in 2008 but that saw Republican gains last year.