Obama's GOP Bashing on a Million-Dollar Bus: Not a Campaign Trip?

President Barack Obama attacked the Republican presidential candidates Monday as part of a taxpayer-funded bus tour that the White House insists is not campaign-related.

The president’s three-day bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois is supposed to focus on jobs. But during a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., Obama mentioned last Thursday’s Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, and he criticized the candidates for saying they would not accept any deficit-reduction deal that includes tax increases.

“I know it’s not election season yet,” Obama said two days after the GOP’s Ames straw poll, “but I just have to mention, the debate the other party candidates were having the other day -- when they were asked to reduce our deficit, reduce our debt, would you be willing to take a deal where it was $5 of spending cuts for every $1 of increased revenues, who would take it? Everybody said no.

“They said, how about 10 to 1? Ten dollars of cuts for every dollar increase in revenue?” Obama continued. “Are you saying that none of you would take it -- and everybody raised their hand. None of them would take it. Think about that. I mean, that’s just not common sense.”

On the (non)campaign-trail in Minnesota Monday, Obama defended his health care plan by taking a swipe at Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who advocated and signed into law a health care plan that included an individual mandate.

“This should not be controversial, but it has become controversial partly because of people’s view that -- well, let me just say this,” Obama said. “You’ve got a governor who’s running for president right now who instituted the exact same thing in Massachusetts -- this used to be a Republican idea, by the way, this whole idea of the individual mandate, and suddenly some -- it’s like they got amnesia.”

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama’s three-day Midwestern trip was official presidential business. He was indignant when reporters suggested that the bus tour might be political.

On Aug. 2, CNSNews.com asked Carney, “Is that a campaign event or a presidential event?

Carney answered, “Negative. That is an official event.”

CNSNews.com followed, “So it is being funded by taxpayers in battleground states?”

Carney responded, “He’s the president of the United States.”

Another reporter followed up about whether there was a political nature to the trip.

The air of cynicism is quite thick,” Carney shot back. “The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous.”

The reporter said, “I didn’t say that.”

Carney said, “No, but you implied it in your question. It is absolutely important for the president – whoever that person is, in the past or in the future – to get out and hear from people in different communities.”

As Obama began his “official,” taxpayer-funded trip to the Midwest, riding on a new $1.1-million bus purchased by the Secret Service, a Gallup poll gave him the lowest approval rating of his presidency.

In the poll released Sunday, only 39 percent of Americans said they approve of the way Obama is doing his job.

Read more at CNSNews.com.