Obama: 'I'll Be Ready' for GOP Challenger

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The president says he's not worried about the emerging field of Republicans who will try to defeat him in 2012

After spending the last couple of days ridiculing the Republican presidential field as an "unreasonable" bunch, President Obama on Tuesday insisted that he's not thinking too much about the GOP contenders looking to send him packing.

Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether he was worried about the GOP field, Obama responded with a cool confidence that belies a dismal approval rating that plummeted to 39 percent in a Gallup daily tracking poll earlier this week.

"I figure I'll let [the Republicans] winnow it down a little bit," Obama said. "When they decide who they want their standard-bearer to be, then I'll be ready for them."

Obama made his remarks in the middle of a three-day bus tour through rural America that has had an unmistakable campaign feel. In public remarks in Minnesota and Iowa over the last two days at town hall meetings and rural economic forums, Obama has criticized GOP congressional leaders and said they're standing in the way of repairing the economy. He's also rebuked the GOP field for being shortsighted.

His opponents in turn have charged that his bus tour is inappropriate use of taxpayer money to bolster his image. Some of the sharpest attacks against the president have come from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the newest entrant in into the race for the GOP nomination.

Perry suggested on Monday that Obama was lacking as commander in chief because he never served in the U.S. military. The Texas governor also said during a campaign stop in Iowa on Monday that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's pondering of printing more money--or quantitative easing--amounted to playing politics and he considered such a move as "almost treacherous--or treasonous in my opinion." Quantitative easing is an effort to lower borrowing costs and keep banks lending.

While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admonished Perry for his comments about the Fed earlier in the day, Obama, in comparison, was downright charitable and said that Perry deserves a mulligan.

"I think that everybody who runs for president probably takes a little bit of time before they start realizing that this isn't like running for governor, or running for senator, or running for Congress," Obama said. "You've got to be more careful with what you say."

In the CNN interview, Obama also passed on an opportunity to take a poke at the presumptive Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's remark last week that "corporations are people."

Instead of knocking the former Massachusetts governor for a rather tone-deaf comment, Obama offered a sober assessment that corporations play a critical role in the American economy, but noted his disagreement with some Republicans over the closure of tax loopholes benefiting certain major corporations.

"If you tell me that corporations are vital to American life, that the free enterprise system has been the greatest wealth creator we've ever seen ... that I absolutely agree with," Obama said. "If on the other hand you tell me that every corporate tax break that's out there is somehow good for ordinary Americans ... then that I disagree with."

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Aamer Madhani is a correspondent (White House) for National Journal.

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