MINNEAPOLIS — 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 need to take a balanced approach," he insisted.
Obama 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.
Obama didn't mention any of the candidates by name, and prefaced the remark by saying, "I know it's not election season yet."
But his comment underscored that election season is indeed under way. The bus tour, although an official White House event rather than a campaign swing, takes Obama through three states he won in 2008 but where he now needs to shore up his standing. It gives him a chance to return to the grassroots 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. The president is traveling in a new $1.1 million bus purchased by the Secret Service.
In Iowa, Obama returns to a state that handed him a key victory over Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in their nomination fight but where Republicans have now been blanketing the state in preparation for its first-in-the-nation caucuses, attacking the president at every turn. The bus tour comes on the heels of Rep. Michele Bachmann's weekend victory in the Iowa Straw Poll and Texas Gov. Rick Perry's contest-rattling entrance into the race.