Hitting back against an emboldened GOP, President 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 of 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, he was forced to defend his record as Iowa voters asked him about compromises he has made with the GOP. "I make no apologies for being reasonable," he said.
Obama recalled a moment in last week's GOP presidential debate in Iowa when all eight candidates said they would refuse to support a deal that includes tax increases, even if tax revenues were outweighed 10-to-1 by spending cuts.
He didn't mention any of the candidates by name.
The president is traveling in a new $1.1 million bus, with tinted windows and flashing lights, that the Secret Service purchased.
The bus tour came on the heels of Rep. Michele Bachmann's weekend victory in the Iowa Straw Poll and Texas Gov. Rick Perry's contest-rattling entrance into the Republican race.
The president got a rosy reception from his Minnesota audience, but Iowa voters were a tougher crowd, demanding to know why he had compromised on principles important to Democrats and asking to hear his plans for dealing with intransigent Republicans.
He responded by pledging to present a specific jobs plan to Congress when lawmakers return from their summer recess in September. "And if they don't get it done, then we'll be running against a Congress that's not doing anything for the American people and the choice will be very stark and very clear," he said.