- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ATKINSON, Ill. — President Obama wrapped up his three-day bus tour of the Midwest on Wednesday by previewing his renewed plans for deficit reduction involving what he called “shared sacrifice.”

“If everybody took an attitude of shared sacrifice, we could solve our deficit and debt problem next week,” Mr. Obama said at a town-hall-style event at a hybrid-seed factory. “I need you to send a message to folks in Washington: Stop drawing lines in the sand.”

But even as he spoke, voters were delivering a message of their own — a new Gallup poll released Wednesday gave Mr. Obama the lowest rankings of his presidency on the economy. Just 26 percent of Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama’s record on the economy, down 11 percentage points from mid-May.

Some 71 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Obama’s performance on the economy and on his efforts to deal with the federal budget deficit. A majority also gave negative marks to the president on creating jobs, foreign policy and the war in Afghanistan.

White House officials confirmed that the president will deliver a major speech shortly after Labor Day outlining his plans for job growth and to cut deficits by more than the $1.5 trillion that a “supercommittee” in Congress is tasked with achieving.

The proposal would include an extension of payroll tax cuts and other tax cuts. It also will include an initiative to spur construction jobs and additional unemployment aid.

Republican leaders were quick to pour water on the president’s proposals.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said the announcement offers more of the same strategies from Mr. Obama that haven’t worked in the past.

“People expect their leaders to lead,” Mr. Cantor said. “That means moving past the class warfare and the divisive politics and instead doing what is needed to get people working again. That means delivering results, not simply speeches.”

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said via Twitter that Mr. Obama could scrap the September speech and just hand over his detailed plan to Congress. “Seriously, just drop it in the mail. Podium not required,” Mr. Buck’s tweet said.

With Congress on vacation this month, Mr. Obama has been touring rural areas of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois to promote ideas for job creation in agricultural regions. But one farmer in the audience in Atkinson told the president he should pursue another idea for creating jobs.

“Please don’t charge us with more rules and regulations,” the man said, citing reports that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to issue tougher regulations on dust pollution and water runoff. “Sometimes the best approach is common sense.”

Mr. Obama, who had an earlier confrontation on his trip with a tea party activist over political rhetoric, countered: “Don’t always believe what you hear. A lot of times we are going to be applying common sense.”

The president also made an unadvertised stop at the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill., where he checked out a cow-judging contest. Many people were thrilled to see him, including Norma Haan, 68.

“I’m just totally amazed, just our little small town,” she said.

But others, such as Leonard Sheaffer of Dixon, Ill., whose daughter entered cows in the contest, were not as taken with the president.

“I’m pretty conservative,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “The administration is putting on too many regulations for agriculture. It’s kind of scary.”

Mr. Obama was set to join his family for a 10-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts as his Midwestern swing concluded.

Republican White House contender Mitt Romney, campaigning in New Hampshire, was among those needling the president over his decision to take a break despite his dire rhetoric about debt and the economy.

“But we appreciate the fact that he’s going to devote some time to it,” Mr. Romney said. “Not just going to be on the bus tour, not just going to be vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, but giving some thought to the American people.”

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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