DECORAH, Iowa — Hitting back against an emboldened GOP, President Barack Obama launched a rare direct attack Monday on the Republican presidential field, criticizing his potential 2012 rivals for their blanket opposition to any deficit-cutting compromise involving new taxes.
"That's just not common sense," Obama told the crowd at a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., as he kicked off a three-day bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
"You've got to be willing to compromise to move the country forward," Obama said later as he delivered the same message at a town hall in Decorah, Iowa.
At the same time, Obama was forced to defend his record as Iowa voters asked him about all the compromises he has made with the GOP.
"I make no apologies for being reasonable," Obama declared.
He recalled a moment in last week's GOP presidential debate when all eight of the candidates said they would refuse to support a deal with tax increases, even if tax revenues were outweighed 10-to-1 by spending cuts.
The bus tour, although an official White House event rather than a campaign swing, is taking Obama through three states he won in 2008 but where he now needs to shore up his standing. It's giving him a chance to return to the grass roots campaigning that helped propel him to the White House, and shed his jacket and tie to mix it up with voters in coffee shops and lunch joints far from the Beltway.
Today, the president holds what the White House is billing as a "rural economic forum" in Peosta, Iowa, near the Illinois border, where he'll be joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, to announce several initiatives for rural areas. He'll wrap up Wednesday with town halls, before returning to Washington.