Children in Chatfield, Minn., try to help up President Barack Obama after they posed for a picture Monday. | Jim Watson~AFP/Getty Images
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:29AM
DECORAH, Iowa — 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’ve got to be willing to compromise to move the country forward,” the president said later in the day as he delivered the same message at a town hall in Decorah, Iowa.
At the same time Obama was forced to defend his own record as Iowa voters asked him about all the compromises he’s made with the GOP.
“I make no apologies for being reasonable,” Obama declared as he stood in front of a cheery red barn, surrounded by bales of hay.
The president 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, is taking Obama through three states he won in 2008 but where he now needs to shore up his standing. It’s giving 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 — as he did in three unscheduled stops Monday, including one in a tree-lined Minnesota town where he was swarmed by enthusiastic kids.
The president is traveling in an imposing new $1.1 million bus, outfitted with tinted windows and flashing lights, that the Secret Service purchased.