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Obama at town hall meetings: Do voters blame him for the economy?

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Jason Reed/Reuters

(Read caption) US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall event in Alpha, Illinois, on August 17. Obama is on a Midwest bus trip through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

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When the wheels stopped rolling Wednesday on President Obama’s three-day bus tour of the Midwest, he was back in his home state of Illinois, but not yet on his home turf.

Rather than land curbside in the northeast part along Lake Michigan, where he is most comfortable, the president held two town hall meetings in Henry County, a Republican stronghold in the western part of the state near the Iowa border.

Despite the county’s reputation as a red enclave in a pool of blue, the meetings nevertheless attracted constituents who were either hardcore supporters of the president since the 2008 election or who were not particularly fond of his social agenda but were convinced he was, in fact, not at fault for the nation’s economic struggles.

“I don’t blame him. It’s Congress. It is,” said Terry Dunk, a self-employed businessman whose fast food restaurant and garden center both closed within the past year in nearby Geneseo.

Mr. Dunk says he voted for John McCain three years ago and isn’t convinced his vote in next year’s presidential election will be redirected to Mr. Obama. Still, he echoed many here who said their anger was directed at both political parties and at special interest groups, not necessarily at the president.

Ruth DeDecker of nearby Annawan, who is retired, waited to watch Obama’s bus depart outside Wyffels Hybrids, a corn seed company where Obama held the first of two events. She said her disgust was reserved for “the feud between the Republicans and Democrats carrying all this commotion.”

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