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In Decorah, he essentially laid out a strategy to paint the House GOP as a “do-nothing” Congress until November 2012.

“If you’re making your voices heard, if you’re letting people know that enough is enough … then sooner or later these guys have to start paying attention,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, declined to characterize the president’s strategy as effective when asked by The Washington Times how Iowa voters would respond to the call.

“That’s what democracy is all about,” Mr. Vilsack said. “I think the president not only holds Congress to that standard, but I think he has said on repeated occasions he holds himself to that standard. We are faced with difficult times, but the president has an extraordinary confidence and faith in the American people.”

Despite the heavily political overtones of the bus trip, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the president is not in campaign mode. He said the trip is a matter of promoting a jobs agenda.

“If we are unable to achieve some of those goals then we would have to take the argument to the American people,” Mr. Carney said.

Mr. Vilsack and several other Cabinet members took part in the jobs forum Tuesday at Northeast Iowa Community College. They held sessions with farmers, small business owners and others to strategize about boosting the rural economy with initiatives such as expanding broadband access and boosting loan programs.

The White House also announced a $510 million initiative through the Agriculture and Energy departments and the U.S. Navy over three years to produce advanced aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. Mr. Vilsack said the proposal would spend “money that’s already in the budget.”