In a bid to push back against Republican rivals and boost weak poll numbers, US President Barack Obama is visiting parts of the crucial electoral battleground otherwise known as the Midwest.
In an effort to push back against feisty Republican presidential contenders and boost dramatically sagging poll numbers, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday continued his 3-day campaign-style bus tour of the Midwest.
The trip comes toward the end of a difficult summer for the president, as financial markets suffered, the economy continued to struggle, and the White House engaged in a drawn-out and politically damaging tug-of-war with Congress over the debt ceiling.
Obama’s visit brings him to a handful of small-town settings and puts him face-to-face with Americans in town-hall-style gatherings. Aside from taking questions, the president is also seizing the opportunity to slam right-wing presidential rivals who have been caustically dropping his name over the past few months.
Hitting back at Republicans
Speaking before a crowd of 500 supporters in Minnesota on Monday, Obama criticised Republicans for rejecting the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy, mockingly summing up their stance as: “You can’t buy shoes, you can’t buy dresses, but I get to keep my golf clubs”.
He also got in a dig at Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, who, as governor of Massachusetts, famously implemented a state-wide healthcare system that bears a striking resemblance to the 2010 reform Republicans call “Obamacare”. “You've got a governor who's running for president right now who instituted the exact same thing in Massachusetts,” Obama told the supporters. “It's like they got amnesia.”
While in Minnesota, Obama also drew a contrast between his own political vision and that of his Republican adversaries who have called for a return to “small government”. “Don’t buy into this whole notion that somehow government doesn’t do us any good,” Obama said. “Government protects us. Government is what built the interstate highway system. Government is what put a man on the moon.”
Though the trip comes as Obama’s approval rating is at a low of 39 percent (according to prominent pollster Gallup) and brings the president to electorally crucial “swing” states (states in which neither party gets overwhelming support) like Iowa, the White House has downplayed the strategic nature of the visit. “He’s out here doing his job and meeting with the American people,” Obama’s press secretary told reporters Monday.
Despite that disclaimer, the appearances in the Midwest have carried strong echoes of his rousing 2008 campaign stops. With rolled-up sleeves and no tie, Obama told Minnesotans “I’m here to enlist you in a fight” and later in the day bantered back and forth with Iowan Democrats who accused him of giving in too easily to Republican demands.
Rolling out a plan for jobs
Whatever the motivation behind the visit may be, many political analysts say that Obama will need to do more than jab at Republicans in order to regain the momentum that has eluded him over the past few months. “It is important for President Obama to explain what he is doing to create jobs,” Darrell West, a government scholar at the Brookings Institution, told FRANCE 24. “People are doubting his leadership so he needs to put proposals on the table.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Obama had mostly avoided policy details, sticking to a broad promise to give Congress in September “a very specific plan to boost the economy, to create jobs and to control our deficit”.
But in a statement released Tuesday, the Obama administration indicated that while in Iowa, Obama would unveil “new jobs initiatives” designed to boost rural communities and small businesses.
Obama will then head to Illinois Wednesday, before departing the next day for a 10-day holiday on New England island Martha’s Vineyard. In addition to family time and relaxation, the president will, according to his press secretary, be regularly briefed on national security, economic issues, and other unfinished business. As Darrell West of the Brookings Institution warned, “The Republican field looks weak, but their nominee will look stronger when it is a one-on-one battle with President Obama amidst 9 percent unemployment.”
Date created : 2011-08-16