President Barack Obama set out Monday morning for a three day tour of the Midwest to discuss the economy, politics, debt and next year's elections with small town citizens of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.
The tour begins in Cannon Falls, Minnesota; Obama will host a town hall style event to answer questions and talk with small business owners, families, community organizations and local government officials about job-creation and a national unemployment rate of over nine percent.
Later in the day, he'll host a second session in Decorah, Iowa, where state Republicans are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to grill the president about recent political maneuvers.
On Tuesday, Obama will hold a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa, just hours after the Republican candidates for President, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, held an informal debate Sunday night.
On Wednesday, he will visit Atkinson, and Alpha, Illinois before returning to the White House. Thursday he will join his family on their annual vacation to Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest:
"The president views it as one of the chief responsibilities in office to spend some time outside Washington, D.C., talking to people all across the country about the economy and about how they're impacted by the policy decisions that he's making here in Washington, D.C."
The trip has been touted as purely an official visit, but Republicans see it as a pre-emptive strike by Obama to begin his re-election campaign to win over the three states that he won back in 2008 that have recently seen increased Republican representatives. The Republican National Committee labeled the trip Obama's "Debt-End Bus Tour."
They called it:
"A totally non-political taxpayer-funded administration event that just happens to criss-cross several battleground states critical to the president's reelection."
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romeny has dubbed it Obama's "Magical Misery Bus Tour," and is running ads highlighting poor job numbers in Minnesota and Iowa.
The White House maintains the President's sole reason for the trip is to listen to the concerns of everyday Americans on the debt crisis, economic setbacks, unemployment rates and the growing tension between Obama and members of Congress.
"The president does anticipate that he'll detect a little frustration about the dysfunction in Congress, and the strident position of some in Congress to put their partisan affiliation ahead of the country," Earnest said.
During this tour, Obama hopes to wipe out some of the negative feelings toward the government and Capitol Hill in general by regaining some of the trust he has lost during his time in office.
Regardless of the possible political undertones of the trip, the President will hear from thousands of supporters and critics alike. They will have a chance to voice months of growing economic and political concerns and make their real stories and struggles heard.
"Democrats, independents and Republicans expect to see their president of the United States outside of Washington, D.C., out from behind the podium, spending time talking to the American people in their communities," Earnest added.
This visit is similar to the two-day tour he made last year though Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, which had a similar feeling.
"It was a reminder that sometimes there's a mismatch between the way politics are portrayed in Washington and how people are feeling," the president said in 2010. "I think it's a less toxic atmosphere."