If President Obama flew Air Force One to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois this week for town hall meetings on the economy, it may have been harder for Republicans to argue the trip was political and should have been paid for out of campaign funds. But Obama took a bus, and a bus is associated more with retail campaigning, thus opening the door for the GOP complaints.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told Fox News, "We are going to come out swinging. We are not going to sit around and let this joke continue of a bus tour, paid for by the taxpayers of this country, paid for by people who are suffering with unemployment through the sky, debt out of control, deficits out of control, and a president who is really the Campaigner-in-chief here of America. All he's doing is campaigning. That's what this bus tour is, it's a campaign trip. It's paid for by taxpayers and we are not going to sit around and let it continue without at least responding."
During a Monday briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked to "explain what the difference is from what people see between an official trip and a political trip?"
Replied Carney, :Well, the President, as you know, has taken some trips where he's raised money for his reelection campaign. The fact is that the President is not engaged in a primary election and he is doing what Presidents do, which is go out in the country and engage with the American people, have discussions about the economy and other policy issues. He's having a Rural Economic Forum tomorrow, for example, as well as meeting with a host of local business leaders and private sector players in the economy -- local economy. And that would be -- to suggest that any time the President leaves Washington it's a political trip would mean that Presidents could never leave unless they were physically campaigning on their own behalf, and he's not; he's out here doing his job and meeting with the American people.
"I think that Americans are fully aware of the intensity with which the President was working in Washington, in the White House, during the days and weeks that led up to the resolution of the debt ceiling crisis. He's also -- part of his job is not just sitting down with leaders of Congress or around the table in the Cabinet Room, but engaging with Americans from different parts of the country and different walks of life and different sectors of the economy to talk about his ideas to grow the economy and spur job creation, and to hear from them what they're hearing and seeing, and their ideas as well."