WASHINGTON – The White House calls it a return to the heartland, and at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, the president tailored his message to fit the audience.
"Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world and we ought to be opening markets for Iowa farmers all over the world," Bush told fairgoers.
Bush said the trade promotion authority that he just signed into law will help farmers do just that.
Iowa is one stop on a three-state campaign-style swing through the Midwest.
The president is hoping his high poll numbers will help Republicans hang on to the House and win the Senate this fall.
It was clearly a political day at the Iowa State Fair.
House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who wants to be speaker of the House, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who is fighting to hang on to his seat, praised the grilled pork chops even as Gephardt turned up the heat on the president, lambasting the economic summit Bush spearheaded in Texas on Wednesday.
"We've got serious problems in this economy and to go out yesterday and have basically a PR exercise that is a defense of what is, and saying just hang in there it's going to be OK -- I don't think is what people want to hear," Gephardt said.
The president admits there are economic challenges but insists the economy is on the right track.
"Now, we might have hit a bump in the road, that road's going to smooth out, and people are going to find the economic security they want here in America," Bush said in his traditionally folksy manner.
Iowa Republicans tried to put a damper on Gephardt's visit by running a radio ad accusing him of voting against better Medicare reimbursement rates for their hospitals, rates that are low because of the lower cost of living in Iowa.
"Gephardt is visiting Iowa this week. He's here to get support for his agenda -- like help blocking payments for our rural hospitals? Who's he kidding?" the ad says.
But Gephardt's people say that while he rejected a Republican bill that contained the higher reimbursements, he voted for a Democratic bill that contained identical language.
The president raised nearly $2 million for Republican candidates at his two stops in Wisconsin and Iowa Wednesday. On Thursday, he heads to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's home state of South Dakota, holding a homeland security event at Mt. Rushmore.
Fox News' Steve Centanni contributed to this report.