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ATKINSON, Ill. (CBS) – President Barack Obama was wrapping up an official White House listening tour through the Midwest on Wednesday.
The president spent the day in northwestern Illinois, saying he was glad to be back home.
Obama was in Henry County – a county he won in 2008 – visiting Alpha and Atkinson, Illinois, about 160 miles west of Chicago.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine monitored the president’s visit – a bus tour to hear that Obama said was aimed at finding out what’s on the minds of the voters.
It was a very busy tour for the president and, at one of his patented town hall meetings, he got an earful from voters about the recession and how he is going to end it.
“It is good to be back – back home,” Obama said at a town hall meeting at a corn seed company in Atkinson, Ill.
But even in friendly territory, the only thing on voters’ minds was not the war in Afghanistan, not global warming, not crop prices – just economic fear.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nick Gale reports
Over and over, Obama was asked what he could do to help the middle class, to help create jobs and to avoid cuts to programs that help struggling taxpayers.
The president offered some specifics.
“What we’ve been trying to do is push the banks, push the servicers to do loan modifications that will allow people to stay in their homes,” Obama said.
But mostly, he blamed the stalled recovery on Republicans in Congress prolonging the debt crisis.
“You can’t bring an attitude that says I’d rather see my opponent lose than America win,” Obama said of Congressional Republicans.
“I can’t excuse the self-inflicted wound that was the whole debt debate. It shouldn’t have happened the way it did. We shouldn’t have gotten that close to the brink. It was inexcusable,” Obama added.
Leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized the president’s bus tour as a re-election stunt.
‘We appreciate the fact that he’s trying to devote some time to it, not just gonna be on the bus tour, not just gonna be vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, but giving some thought to the American people,” Romney said. “I would have thought that’s what he’d have done from Day One. And if I’m the next President of the United States, from Day One of my term, I’ll be working to get Americans jobs again.”
Earlier in the day, Obama was a big hit when he surprised visitors during the cow judging at the Whiteside County Fair.
“I’m probably not the guy to judge this stuff,” Obama said.
Judging by comments made on Wednesday by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Obama’s former chief of staff – big city mayors and fellow Democrats are getting impatient about putting people to work.
The White House has said that the president will deliver a major speech about creating jobs during the first week in September.