ABC News’s Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:
President Obama’s economy-themed bus tour next week will start in southern Minnesota, cut across northeast Iowa, and end in western Illinois, the administration announced today.
“The president will discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation and hear directly from Americans, including local families and small business owners,” the White House said in a statement.
When Obama arrives in the Midwest battlegrounds he will encounter unemployment levels that are at or below the national average.
In Minnesota and Iowa, the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent and 6.0 percent respectively, according to the latest Labor Department statistics. In Illinois, unemployment is at 9.2 percent, roughly the national average.
White House aides have said Obama’s trip is official business, allowing the president an opportunity to engage directly with average Americans and explain his plans for encouraging job growth nationwide. But some Republicans have criticized the tour, which comes just days after a GOP presidential debate and straw poll in Iowa, as political campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime.
Either way, presidential visits to three states, which Obama won in 2008 and have 36 electoral votes up for grabs in 2012, can’t hurt.
Obama’s approval ratings in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois are currently above the national average, according to the latest Gallup survey, and he undoubtedly wants to keep it that way.
In Minnesota, 52 percent of voters approve of Obama’s job handling, while 49 percent approved in Iowa and 54 percent in Illinois, Gallup found. The national average for the first half of 2011 was 47 percent.