Obama takes shutdown fight to heartland

President Obama will travel to a Ford truck plant in Kansas City, Mo. on Friday as the White House looks to keep pressure on congressional Republicans with just 10 days remaining before a potential government shutdown.

A White House official said the trip is intended to show that Republicans are "playing politics with the economy" while the president is focused on growing the middle class.

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"The last thing we can afford right now is a decision by a minority of Republicans in Congress to throw our economy back into crisis by refusing to pay our country's bills or shutting down the government," the official said.

While at the plant, Obama will highlight the rebound of the American auto industry in the five years since the financial crisis. According to the White House, auto manufacturers have added more than 340,000 jobs since 2009, and Ford has sold nearly half a million of the F-series trucks built at the assembly plant.

The trip is the latest in a weeklong series of presidential appearances intended to refocus attention on the economy, including a rare Sunday show appearance and a meeting with top corporate executives at the Business Roundtable.

The White House has acknowledged that the recent diplomatic crisis in Syria drew attention away from the subject, but officials say rapidly approaching deadlines over the debt ceiling and federal budget have intensified the need for the president to be seen. In fact, the president came under criticism for proceeding with an economic address earlier this week, even as news of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard emerged.

It's also one of the few opportunities the president will have to publicly make his case before the end of the month. Next week, Obama will travel to New York City to participate in the U.N. General Assembly.

The Kansas City event is likely to draw familiar criticism from congressional Republicans, who have charged in the past that the president prefers campaign-style events over substantive policy discussions in Washington.

On Thursday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a Web video mocking the president for his willingness to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying Obama had not extended the same courtesy to Republicans in the House.

A spokesman for Boehner said the president had little to celebrate when visiting the plant.

“The president’s sustained self-congratulation this week only strains his credibility with the American people," said Boehner aide Brendan Buck. "He has overseen one of the weakest, slowest economic recoveries in history, and Americans don’t see that as something to celebrate.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the president's travel while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

"The President of the United States, as was true of all of his predecessors and will be true of all of his successors, believes that it is absolutely the right thing to do to travel around the country to talk about his agenda and what we need to do as a nation to grow the economy," Carney said. "He’ll continue to do that."