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Obama slams Republicans over tax

President Barack Obama has launched a rare direct attack on the Republican presidential field, using the first stop on his Midwest bus tour to criticise opposition presidential hopefuls who have rejected the need for new taxes to bring the US deficit under control.

Mr Obama hit back at Republicans, apparently inspired by a debate in Iowa last week at which all the Republicans hoping to win the party nomination outright rejected the possibility of increasing tax revenue despite the national debt climbing beyond 14 trillion US dollars (£8.5 trillion). Republicans say they are intent on bringing down indebtedness through cutting government spending alone.

"Think about that. I mean, that's just not common sense," Mr Obama said at a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, as he kicked off a three-day bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. "You need to take a balanced approach," he added.

Mr Obama made the comments after recalling the moment during the Republican debate when all eight candidates said they would not support a deal with tax increases, even if tax revenues were outweighed 10-to-1 by spending cuts.

Mr Obama did not mention any of the candidates by name, and started the remark by saying: "I know it's not election season yet."

But his comment underscored that election season is, in fact, well under way.

The bus tour itself, although an official White House event rather than a campaign swing, took on a campaign feel coming on the heels of Republican Michele Bachmann's weekend victory in the Iowa Straw Poll.

Mr Obama is visiting states he won in 2008 but where he now needs to shore up his standing and counter Republican attacks.

The president was on the road after spending much of the summer in Washington caught in bitterly partisan negotiations on the debt crisis that hurt his approval ratings and those of Congress. The sliding ratings were further damaged by faltering economic figures and continued high unemployment.

Eager to get out of Washington, Mr Obama struck a casual tone, ditching his suit and tie for a sports coat and khakis for the open-air event.

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