President Barack Obama will travel to Jacksonville on Thursday and deliver remarks at the Port Authority as part of a series of events scheduled to focus on the economy, the White House announced Monday.
The larger trip is intended as part of a nationwide campaign aimed at emphasizing the administration's attempt to build the economy by boosting the middle class. But in Florida, the president's remarks also are likely to be viewed in the context of the racial issues festering since the George Zimmerman verdict.
Obama will begin his "focus on the economy" tour in his home state of Illinois where he will deliver a major address at Knox College in western Illinois today, the White House said.
Obama believes Washington "has taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,'' said White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer in an email Sunday. The president will "lay out his vision for rebuilding an economy that puts the middle class and those fighting to join it front and center,'' he said.
Pfeiffer's comments supplied a convenient opening for the Republican Party of Florida, which launched an "Eye Off the Ball" series on its website Monday to chide the president.
The party has posted a mockup of the president throwing a football and suggesting his speaking tour is "a Hail Mary pass on the economy."
Stressful meeting for Sen. Rubio?
Sen. Marco Rubio faced some of his toughest critics on Tuesday night: the tea party.
The Florida Republican, who has received intense criticism for his role in immigration reform, attended a closed-door "Tea Party Legislative Forum" on Capitol Hill.
Organizers said the meeting was "to discuss the ongoing targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, the future of immigration reform, and the implementation of the failed Obamacare legislation."
Tea party members have been some of the most vocal critics of the immigration bill, which they said grants amnesty, and during a rally in June, boos could be heard directed toward Rubio. Tea party groups have also protested against him in Florida, though those gatherings have been relatively small.
Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.