President Obama Heads to "Main Street" Next Week

With the debate over health care behind him, and legislative action on financial reform on the horizon, President Obama heads back to Main Street next week, on a two-day blitz across the Midwest to promote his economic policies for families and small business.

The president will travel to Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois on Tuesday and Wednesday where he will meet with workers, farmers, small business owners, and local leaders to discuss the economy and job creation. According to the White House, Mr. Obama will spend his time hearing about the challenges facing rural Americans.  The tour is part of the "White House to Main Street" campaign that started last December with the president's trip to the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Visits to Ohio and Georgia followed shortly thereafter.

While the president has long said he enjoys getting out of Washington, he made more trips to foreign destinations in his first year in office than any other commander-in-chief. As far as domestic travel, he lags behind his predecessor George W. Bush.

But that may change in the months ahead, if more "White House to Main Street" stops are added to the president's schedule now that the big health care fight has ended and the focus has shifted back to the economy and clean energy.


Although his campaign was born in Illinois, Mr. Obama's candidacy came alive in Iowa, where he first unveiled his vision for universal health care in May 2007, vowing to provide coverage for everyone.  He returned last month to promote the benefits of the newly-passed bill.

"After a year of debate, a century of trying, after so many of you shared your stories and your heartaches and your hopes, that promise was finally fulfilled. And today, health insurance reform is the law of the land all across America," Mr. Obama declared, as the crowed in Iowa City erupted with chants of "Yes we did."

Mr. Obama credits supporters in Iowa for planting the seeds of his grassroots campaign; his victory in the 2008 caucus there spurred the political momentum he needed to win the presidency.

He ultimately won the state by over 15 percentage points.

"This is the state that first believed in our campaign," he told the audience at the University of Iowa in March. "When all the pundits had written us off, when we were down in the polls, this is the state that inspired us to keep on going, even when the path was uncertain.  And because of you, this is the place where change began."

On Tuesday Mr. Obama will tour Siemens Energy in Fort Madison, Iowa where he will talk to workers about ways to grow the economy. Siemens recently announced that it will build a $15 million "smart grid" system in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Later in the day, the president will hold a townhall meeting at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. He was last there in November 2007, when he told a roundtable discussion that change does not automatically come with a party switch in the White House, but a significant shift in policies. He touted his plan for reforming pension and bankruptcy laws to protect workers. "Americans who work hard their entire lives have earned a retirement that is secure and dignified," Mr. Obama said.  "But Washington is not working to preserve this fundamental part of the American dream. That’s why my agenda for retirement security will lift up savings for working people, and reform bankruptcy laws to protect your pensions."

On Wednesday the president will visit nearby Quincy, Illinois, which was ailed by severe flooding in 2008. Mr. Obama traveled to the region in June of that year to assess the damage and help with sandbagging efforts.

Parts of Iowa and Missouri were also affected by the floods.

All three states have felt the impact of the recession, experiencing relatively high unemployment rates that teeter near the national average of 9.7%.  Illinois -- the president's unofficial home state -- maintains one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, at 11.5, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.