PEOSTA, Iowa — Seeking some help from rural America, President Barack Obama on Tuesday implored Iowans to share ideas with him about how leaders can give an economic jolt to the nation's heartland. He promised better days in a time of relentless joblessness, saying, "We'll get through this moment of challenge."
Obama pulled into this northeastern Iowa town with some modest announcements of federal support, include targeting loans to rural small businesses and recruitment of more doctors for rural hospitals. But he seemed more intent on getting some guidance himself, and presenting himself as a president who doesn't think Washington knows best.
"I'm looking forward to hearing from you about what else we can do to jump-start the economy here," Obama said at Northeast Iowa Community College. The president even took part in breakout sessions.
The political backdrop was the same rural state where Obama's first run for the presidency took flight. On an official bus tour through the Midwest that in every way felt like a re-election campaign trip, the president was crossing Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois over three days before heading on a summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard.
In terms not heard from Obama in some time, he sounded nostalgic, and thankful for the escape in Iowa.
"You're what gives me strength," Obama said.
Earlier, opening an event at the college, he took another shot at Republicans in Congress for what he called a harmful practice of putting party above country.
Just down the road in Dubuque, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has jumped into the Republican race, said the president's bus tour was a folly.
"We know what the problem is: We're being overtaxed, overregulated and overlitigated," Perry told voters having lunch at a riverfront brewery.
Obama, for his part, sought to identify with the work ethic and community pride of the picturesque region. He said a big American comeback won't be driven by Washington.
"It is going to be driven by folks here in Iowa. It's going to begin in the classrooms of community colleges like this one," Obama said. "It's going to start on the ranchlands and farms of the Midwest, the workshops of basement inventors, and storefronts of small business owners."
Obama is offering signals of his governing approach for the remainder of his term and the evolution of a campaign message for his re-election bid.
He's determined to use the reach of his office to build public pressure on Republicans to move his way on economic and fiscal policies, to counterpunch against the GOP presidential field and to argue for his presidency with independent voters and rekindle enthusiasm among Democrats.
With echoes of Harry Truman's 1948 campaign against a "do-nothing" Congress, Obama encouraged audiences at town hall meetings Monday in Minnesota and Iowa to rise up against congressional inaction. He did the same Tuesday.
"You do your part. You meet your obligations," Obama said in Peosta. "Well, it's time Washington acted as responsibly as you do every single day. It's past time."