BALTIMORE -- President Obama, struggling to find his footing after one of his most turbulent weeks, vowed Friday to focus on the business of governing during a series of stops focused on middle-class jobs.
Leaving behind the swirl of questions in the Capitol, Mr. Obama flew by helicopter to Baltimore, where he promoted his policies to train Americans for well-paying manufacturing jobs, in visits to an elementary school and a factory that makes dredging equipment.
"Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by," Mr. Obama said to a crowd of 500 on a factory floor, referring obliquely to the controversies transfixing Washington. "But the middle class will always be my No. 1 focus, period."
It was the kind of populist message Mr. Obama delivered countless times in factories and farmyards during his re-election campaign. And the very familiarity of his words seemed calculated to send a message that he did not intend to be blown off course.
In Washington, however, attention was fixed on a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee, where the recently ousted commissioner of the I.R.S., Steven Miller, was subjected to fierce questioning about an admission that tax inspectors had targeted conservative groups.
Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the committee chairman, said in opening the hearing: "This appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups -- and political intimidation -- in this administration. It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election."
Mr. Obama's visit underscored the White House's challenges in this tense period. At Ellicott Dredges, Mr. Obama announced a plan to streamline the process for issuing permits for federal public-works projects, the kind of modest measure that does not require legislation.
But the president's first stop, at an elementary school, brought a reminder that one of his most ambitious social initiatives -- a federal-state plan to vastly expand prekindergarten and early-childhood education -- depends on a broader budget deal with Congress.
"My advice to the president is to do exactly what he's doing: focus on substance," said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House minority whip, who accompanied Mr. Obama. The controversies, Mr. Hoyer said, "are a distraction, and a purposeful distraction."
Speaking in shirt sleeves, his tone loose, Mr. Obama betrayed no outward sign of strain. Mr. Hoyer said that in their personal interactions, the president had appeared "at ease."
In his speech, Mr. Obama promised not to be deflected from his legislative priorities, from education to gun-violence legislation. "The only thing that's holding us back sometimes is a lack of political will," he said. "Sometimes our leadership isn't focused where we need to be focused."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.