By Sam Youngman - 08/16/11 01:25 AM EDT
President Obama, on the road and seemingly excited to be there, unleashed an assault on Congress and his Republican rivals, accusing them of making the economy worse and threatening their political futures.
In nakedly political terms, Obama spoke repeatedly about challenging Congress in next year's elections if they refuse to compromise with him on the economy, and he took thinly veiled swipes at his Republican opponents.
"If your voices are heard, then sooner or later these guys have to start paying attention," Obama said in Iowa on Monday. "And if they don't start paying attention, then they're not going to be in office and we will have a new Congress in there that will start paying attention to what is going on all across America."
Looking to rebound from one of the lowest points in his presidency -- the protracted fight over the debt ceiling and the subsequent show of disdain for Washington -- Obama spent the first day of his bus tour criticizing Congress and his opponents.
While the White House insisted in the lead up to the tour that the trip was about official business because Obama was talking to Americans, the president was clearly talking to voters. With his sleeves rolled up, tie missing and campaign cadence on full display, Obama appeared to be in total campaign mode.
Both in town hall meetings in Minnesota and Iowa -- a state teeming with Obama's would-be Republican rivals -- the president took aim at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's healthcare plan.
"It’s amusing to watch one of the major Republican candidates now trying to wiggle out of the fact that my health care bill is very similar to the health care bill he passed at a time when he needed to compromise because he was living in a Democratic-majority state," Obama said.
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But throughout the day, and especially in Iowa where Obama was launched toward the White House in 2008, the president trained his attack on Congress, talking openly about defeating them at the polls.
In announcing that he will be putting forth "a very specific plan to boost to the economy, to create jobs and to control our deficit," Obama preemptively challenged Congress to "get it done," or else.
"And if they don’t get it done, then we’ll be running against a Congress that’s not doing anything for the American people, and the choice will be very stark and will be very clear," Obama warned.
The president also sought to make peace with his liberal supporters, explaining and defending some of the compromises he has made on healthcare and tax cuts and blasting Republicans in the process.
"Look, the bottom line is we’re moving in the right direction," Obama told one questioner. "But I know it’s frustrating, because the other side is unreasonable. And you don’t want to reward unreasonableness. Look, I get that. But sometimes you’ve got to make choices in order to do what’s best for the country at that particular moment, and that’s what I’ve tried to do."
The president's tour is scheduled to continue in Iowa on Tuesday before moving to Illinois.