But even before Obama had left Washington, Republicans launched preemptive strikes on what House Speaker John Boehner's office mocked as a "tour de farce" fueled by political expediency.
And the Karl Rove-connected Crossroads GPS group announced it was launching a $650,000 advertising blitz at three of the four states the president is due to visit—Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio (the fourth state, Oklahoma, is not expected to be up for grabs in November).
The ad charges that Obama's policies are directly to blame for high gas prices—a claim the White House counters by pointing to factors like unrest across the Middle East, tensions with Iran and rocketing demand from booming economies in China, India and Brazil, while noting that U.S. oil production is at an eight-year high.
"The president believes we must continue to take a sustained, all-of-the-above approach to American energy—a strategy aimed at reducing our reliance on foreign oil, saving families and businesses money at the pump, and positioning the United States as the global leader in clean energy," the White House said Wednesday in a "fact sheet" about his trip.
Boehner's office, meanwhile, delivered a point-by-point argument that the president's approach has left the national gas tank on "E.""The trip offers a perfect opportunity to remind the American people how this administration's policies are making our energy challenges worse," charged Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. "So here we go."
Obama's first stop is Boulder City, Nev., home to the Copper Mountain Solar One facility—the country's largest solar plant, which powers some 17,000 homes. Senior administration officials said Tuesday that the president would push for doubling down on solar and other alternatives to fossil fuels. The officials spoke at a briefing organized by the White House on condition that they not be be named and not be directly quoted. One of the officials expressed confidence that the controversy over the failed Solyndra firm—which left taxpayers on the hook for a $535-million loan guarantee—had not soured the U.S. public on solar power.
A Republican-led investigation into Solyndra has yet to turn up hard evidence of wrongdoing, but has focused on political ties between the bankrupt firm's private sector investors and Obama's 2008 campaign, leading some critics, notably Mitt Romney, to accuse the president of "crony capitalism."
Buck called the Solyndra fiasco "the administration's most embarrassing energy investment' flop" and said "regulatory roadblocks and burdensome lawsuits" were more to blame than a lack of innovation or government help.
Obama's second stop on the two-day trip will be an oil and gas production field on federal lands outside of Maljamar, N.M. He plans to underscore his support for expanding oil and natural gas drilling on American soil in a spot the White House noted houses some 70 oil rigs.
But Buck charged that "leasing and permitting delays" had slowed output from federal lands.
Of Obama's final two stops, his appearance in Cushing, Okla., will surely generate the most headlines—and the fiercest criticisms. The president will highlight his support for the southern part of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that he blocked amid an outcry from environmentalists. CNN reported Tuesday that he would announce he was fast-tracking the permit process for the section set to run from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama will give his final speech at a state-of-the-art research facility at Ohio State University in Columbus, emphasizing the need for scientific inquiry into high-tech new energy sources.
Correction, 6:13 p.m. EST: This post has been corrected to add the dropped word "State" in "Ohio State University."