Obama Gets Quizzed on Economy

President Obama visits two small Illinois towns about two hours away from Chicago

By Mary Ann Ahern and Lisa Balde
|  Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011  |  Updated 1:45 PM CDT
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Atkinson Village President August Junior talks about his town's preparation for President Barack Obama.

Atkinson Village President August Junior talks about his town's preparation for President Barack Obama.

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President Barack Obama was only two hours from Chicago on Wednesday, but his goals differed from his last hometown trip.

Though Obama says he isn't campaigning during his three-day Midwestern bus tour, he aimed to sway Republicans in two small Illinois towns on the last day of economic-focused town halls.

Obama spoke first at Wyffels Hybrids, a 65-year-old family owned seed company in Atkinson, just east of the Quad Cities on I-80, and was then set to host a town hall at Country Corner Farm Market in Alpha, north of Galesburg along Route 74.

Agriculture was intended to be a major focus of the talks, though all questions in Atkinson were related to the economy.

In the 2008 election, Henry County voted 53 percent in favor of Obama. Since then the community has swung toward the GOP. Radio stations advised Wednesday that those who bring water balloons or tomatoes will be escorted out.

At Lisa's Place, a local restaurant where breakfast costs 6 bucks, the place was packed with police and spectators arriving four hours before the president. While parking was free, one man joked, "like Wrigley Field: 40 bucks, easy in, easy out."

Atkinson Village President August Junior was ready with some 900 flags lining the town's main street. "We just want to make sure President Obama is feeling welcomed," Junior said Wednesday morning.

Junior said he found out about the visit around 9:30 a.m. last Friday from the town's chief of police. He hoped Obama took from the visit a solid impression of a hard-working town.

"I hope he realizes that people here in town and in the surrounding communities put needs before wants, prioritize well and don't overextend themselves," Junior said. "I think there's something to learn from this community."

Obama plans to make a major announcement next month to unveil his ideas for jobs and economic growth. He revealed this week his administration is working on a specific plan to present to Congress.

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