The bus tour may be the new symbol of ineffectual politicking.
President Obama embarked Monday on a three-day bus tour of Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, which his detractors are characterizing as a campaign tour, but which his team insists isn’t a political trip at all.
Remind you of anyone?
The bus trip may be the new symbol of the political lame duck whose message no one quite seems to get. At least the president, however, unlike Sarah Palin, who drew universal expectations for a 2012 presidential run with what looked like a campaign bus trip this summer, is actually a politician.
The ostensible reason for the president’s trip is to discuss the economy face to face with working people. “He’s scheduled to hold town hall meetings and attend rural economic forums,” reports CNN. The Administration is insisting there’s nothing unusual about the trip and that it does not count as part of the president’s re-election campaign.
“That isn’t just an appropriate thing for a president to do, it’s something that a president should do,” said deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.
Republican critics, however, cite the bus tour’s proximity to this weekend’s GOP Straw Poll in Iowa as a reason that the bus tour isn’t about the economy at all, and is really about the re-election. Mitt Romney’s camp released the following statement:
“During his Magical Misery bus tour this week, it is unlikely President Obama will speak with unemployed Americans, to near-bankrupt business owners, or to families struggling to survive in this economy He is more interested in campaigning in swing states than working to solve the economic crisis that is crushing the middle class.”
It’s hard not to picture this as sweet payback for the left’s criticism of Sarah Palin’s pseudo-political bus tour. At the same time, however, the right has long criticized the President’s travel itinerary. Michele Bachmann was among those who speciously claimed last year that the President’s trip to India came at cost to US taxpayers of $200 million per day.
The president has always proved more effective at galvanizing crowds than negotiating policies. But with his approval rating down to an all-time low of 39%, it’s not an ideal time for him to appear to play into the hands of Republican critics who could successfully re-frame this bus trip as more about campaigning and less about leading.
When Obama turns on the charm we’ve all seen how he can sway the masses. Perhaps he’ll be able to turn this trip into a win. However, we also need look no further than Sarah Palin to see how one can get burned by the bus tour.