(Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Getty Images)In the midst of what is shaping up to be one of the worst months of his presidency politically, President Obama will kick off a three-day bus tour through the Midwest today focused on job growth and the economy.
The trip, which starts off with a town hall today in Cannon Falls, Minn., is aimed highlighting at economic development in rural areas and small business success stories--which he'll argue has been possible because of his administration's policies. But the larger focus of the trip is to rebut Republican criticism that Obama isn't focused on improving the economy and creating jobs amid near-record unemployment and fears of a double-dip recession.
The tour comes as the latest Gallup Poll finds Obama's national approval has hit a new low. Just 39 percent of Americans polled approve of Obama's job performance—the lowest number of his presidency. His disapproval rating is at 54 percent, according to Gallup.
White House officials have insisted Obama's Midwest tour isn't political. Indeed, taxpayers will be picking up the tab for the tour, during which Obama will be traveling on a fleet of armored tour buses purchased earlier this year by the Secret Service at an estimated cost of $1.1 million apiece.
But it's hard to believe the president's re-election campaign wasn't on the mind of Obama advisers who planned the itinerary. The president's five-stop tour will take him through Minnesota and Iowa—two likely swing states in 2012—as well as Illinois, which would normally be safe Obama territory but has been hit hard by economic woes.
Indeed, Obama's jaunt to Iowa comes on the heels of this weekend's presidential straw poll and days of events there that have had his GOP rivals in the headlines.