President Obama hits the road today in what his aides bill as something of a comeback tour.
White House officials have high hopes that his bus trip through the Midwest will show that he cares about everyday people, demonstrate that he hasn't been captured by special interests in Washington and renew confidence in his leadership. Obama has endured an extended period of bad news in recent weeks, such as a long-term slide in the stock market, the downgrading of the government's credit rating, escalating casualties in the Afghanistan war and declining job-approval ratings in the polls. His aides say Obama is eager to get out of Washington and "re-connect" with Middle America.
White House advisers say Obama shares the American public's deep concern about the economy but he has been unable to communicate his feelings effectively because he has been tied up in Washington dealing with the debt crisis and budget negotiations. Now that's about to change. [Read more about the 2012 presidential election.]
"There's a benefit to giving a speech in a suit in front of this big white building but there's also a benefit to getting out of Washington and talking to people on Main Street," a key White House official told me. Even a couple of day trips, such as one to Michigan last week, don't give the president the opportunity to meet as many everyday people as he wants. So, starting today, he will spend three days on a bus trip through cities and towns in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. His schedule includes town-hall meetings, chats with people at diners and other eateries, visits to small businesses and other events that enable him to meet people face to face. Then he is tentatively scheduled to go on vacation Thursday at Martha's Vineyard, a resort island off the coast of Massachusetts.
"The American people have been anxious about the economy for the last few years," the White House official says. "The president knows it's what people have been talking about on street corners, at diners and at their dinner tables….He loves to get out of Washington. He talks a lot about the challenge of getting outside the bubble and he's always looking for new ways to do that." [Check out editorial cartoons about the economy.]
Taxpayers will pay for the trip, rather than Obama's re-election campaign. A White House spokesman said the trip is part of his official duties as he seeks to keep in touch with the country.