President Obama Heading Out on 'Economic Bus Tour'

By Fred Lucas and Susan Jones | August 10, 2011 | 4:54 AM EDT

President Obama is heading to farm country on Aug. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

( - Don't call it a campaign trip: On August 15-17, President Obama will travel to the Midwest on a "three-day economic bus tour," making stops in southern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and western Illinois, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

"The President will discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation and hear directly from Americans, including local families and small business owners," the USDA news release said. 

"The President knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation’s future and restore the sense of optimism for future generations.”

Obama will roll into Iowa two days after the Republican straw poll at Iowa State University in Ames.

The event on Saturday is an early test for Republican presidential hopefuls to see how many voters they can draw to their campaigns. The non-binding test vote gives the winning candidate bragging rights and perhaps momentum leading up to the winter caucuses in Iowa.

Obama’s trip to battleground states was first announced last week. As reported, the trip will be paid for by taxpayers.

On August 3, asked White House spokesman Jay Carney, “Is that a campaign event or a presidential event?

Carney answered, “Negative. That is an official event.” followed, “So it is being funded by taxpayers in battleground states?”

Carney responded, “He’s the president of the United States.”

Another reporter followed up about whether there was a political nature to the trip.

“The air of cynicism is quite thick,” Carney shot back. “The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous.”

The reporter replied, “I didn’t say that.”

Carney said, “No, but you implied it in your question. It is absolutely important for the president – whoever that person is, in the past or in the future – to get out and hear from people in different communities."

One week ago, the White House said details about the president’s trip would be forthcoming. On Tuesday, the Obama administration repeated that additional details about President Obama’s trip will be released “as they become available.”

The president leaves in five days.

See earlier story:
Taxpayers Will Pay for Obama Bus Tour of Battleground States, Says White House (8-3-2011)