Obama on the offensive
Obama is offering signals of both his governing approach for the remainder of his term and the evolution of a campaign message for his re-election bid.
He is determined to use the reach of his office to build public pressure on Republicans to move his way on economic and fiscal policies, to counterpunch against the GOP presidential field, and to argue for his presidency with independent voters and rekindle enthusiasm among Democrats.
But the measures are targeted, such as making it easier for rural businesses to get access to capital, and far more modest than the ambitious $821 billion stimulus package he pushed through Congress in 2009 when unemployment was rising but still below the current 9.1 percent level.
Obama's economic message illustrates his current dilemma.
Republicans control the House and believe that addressing the nation's long-term debt will have a positive effect on the economy; they have no appetite for major spending initiatives aimed at spurring a recovery.
Embracing that demand for fiscal discipline, Obama has called for both spending cuts and increases in revenue, but he found few takers for that formula during the contentious debate this summer over raising the nation's debt ceiling.
With echoes of Harry Truman's 1948 campaign against a "do-nothing" Congress, Obama encouraged audiences at town hall meetings Monday in Minnesota and Iowa to rise up against congressional inaction. He did the same on Tuesday.
"You do your part. You meet your obligations," Obama said in Peosta. "Well it's time Washington acted as responsibly as you do every single day. It's past time."
Obama said his government was targeting Small Business Administration loans to rural small businesses, expanding job training to Agriculture Department field offices and recruiting more doctors for small rural hospitals.
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.