Obama to visit rural Midwest, make economic pitch

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 19 2013 4:01 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama will make stops in Illinois and Missouri next week to draw attention to the economy and to measures he argues will help step up the recovery.

Susan Walsh, AP

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will make stops in Illinois and Missouri next week to draw attention to the economy and to measures he argues will help step up the recovery.

Obama will travel Wednesday to Galesburg, Ill., and Warrensburg, Mo., to make his case for spending on infrastructure and for universal pre-school programs, according to the White House. The president is also expected to highlight the economic benefits of overhauling immigration laws.

Both stops are in rural communities that have seen party switches in their congressional representation within the past three years. The Missouri district went from Democrat to Republican, while the Illinois seat flipped the opposite direction.

The trip comes during a high point for the White House, a week after the U.S. Senate gave Obama a significant victory by approving several stalled administration nominations.

Obama is to speak Wednesday afternoon at the University of Central Missouri about "the middle class and the economy," said Joe Duffy, the executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said Friday that he did not know yet whether Nixon would be joining Obama at the event.

Confirmation about Obama's travel plans came as the White House also announced a major disaster declaration for Missouri because of severe storms that struck from May 29 to June 10. The declaration means local governments and nonprofits can seek federal aid for response and recovery expenses in 27 counties.

Johnson County, which is the home of Warrensburg, is not included in that disaster aid list.

The Missouri visit will be Obama's first to the state since a May 2012 commencement speech at Joplin High School that marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly tornado that hit the southwestern Missouri city.

Obama has not fared well politically in Missouri. He carried just 44 percent of the statewide vote last November, well shy of the nearly 54 percent for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Obama narrowly also lost Missouri in his 2008 presidential election.

During the 2010 elections, voters in the 4th Congressional District, which includes Warrensburg, ousted longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton in favor of Republican challenger Vicky Hartzler.

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report from Jefferson City, Mo.

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