CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- President Barack Obama embarked Wednesday on a three-day tour of politically crucial states in a post-State of the Union journey to sell his 2012 economic policy goals while pitching his presidency to a divided public.
Fresh from his address to a joint session of Congress, Obama was promoting his agenda to attract more manufacturing to American soil by showcasing a conveyor belt maker in Iowa and an Intel plant in Arizona.
Obama will highlight energy security Thursday in Nevada and Colorado and wrap up Friday by pushing education and training proposals at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Presidential travel following the State of the Union is commonplace, allowing presidents to temporarily bask in the afterglow of their prime-time performances, milking their message before key constituencies.
Obama was touring Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing, a small family-owned Cedar Rapids company that builds conveyor belts, working primarily with the ethanol and food industries. The president planned to discuss a series of tax incentives to help manufacturers, including ways of reducing tax rates for manufacturing companies and a proposal to double the tax deduction for high-tech manufacturers to spur more jobs in the U.S.
Obama's trip comes amid signs of economic improvements even as battling Republican presidential contenders appeal to conservatives by sounding increasingly hostile to his policies.
Underlying the president's specific policy proposals will be the election-year economic fairness argument that he has been refining since he spelled it out in Osawatomie, Kan., last month, including higher taxes on the wealthy. Reinforcing the political subtext of the trip is the fact that four of the five states he will visit will hold Republican presidential caucuses or primaries within the next month. The two caucuses -- in Nevada and Colorado -- come within two weeks of his visit.
Obama has made a point of grabbing headlines in states in the midst of Republican presidential contests, eager not to cede the political message to his rivals.
What's more, of five paths that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has charted to win re-election in November, all foresee winning Michigan, three require winning Iowa, two require Colorado and Nevada, and one has Arizona in the Obama win column. In 2008, of the five states he's visiting, Obama only lost Arizona, the home state of then rival John McCain.
Obama will also use his trip to grant two high-profile interviews, one to the Spanish-language television network Univision and the other to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. With Univision, the White House hopes to reach an important Latino voting bloc, a constituency that could be important in states such as Arizona and Nevada. The White House also likes the reach ABC gives the president because the interview will be spread among three news shows -- the evening news, "Nightline" and "Good Morning America."
As part of his focus on manufacturing on Wednesday, Obama's trip to Arizona marks his second visit to an Intel plant. He traveled to the firm's Oregon campus in 2011, when Intel announced it would spend $5 billion on a new computer chip manufacturing facility. Intel's CEO, Paul Otellini, is a member of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Looking to increase domestic manufacturing, Obama on Tuesday reiterated his proposal to eliminate tax incentives that make it more attractive for companies to ship jobs overseas. The proposal would require American companies to pay a minimum tax on their overseas profits in order to prevent other countries from attracting U.S. businesses with unusually low tax rates.
Obama also wants to eliminate tax deductions companies receive for the cost of shutting down factories and moving production overseas. He wants to create a new tax credit to cover moving expenses for companies that close production overseas and bring jobs back to the U.S. He also wants to reduce tax rates for manufacturers and double the tax deduction for high-tech manufacturers in order to create more manufacturing jobs in the U.S.