Obama campaigns for jobs bill in North Carolina

President Barack Obama speaks at the Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, N.C. (Chuck Burton)

October 17, 2011 3:09:13 PM PDT
President Barack Obama returned to North Carolina Monday to try to sell Americans on his plan to reduce unemployment and get the sluggish economy moving.

He landed just before 11 a.m. in Air Force One at the Asheville airport and held a rally with about 2,000 people on the tarmac in support of his American Jobs Act before beginning a two-state bus tour.

He told the crowd that his $447 billion plan would help put people back to work and rebuild infrastructure at the same time.

"You got bridges that need fixing. You got schools that need to be modernized," he said. "There is no reason why we should sit here and watch the best highways and the best schools be built in China."

Click here for raw video of President Obama's speech

Obama's American Jobs Act is currently stalled in the Senate. The President said Monday he'll break it into "bite sized pieces" and resubmit it starting this week.

"Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole thing at once," he quipped.

The President said he'd begin with a proposal to create more jobs for teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

"If they vote against taking steps against putting people back to work right now, they're not going to have to answer to me. They're going to have to answer to you," said Obama.

After his rally Monday morning, Obama took his bus to West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek - stopping for barbecue in Marion and at a Mast General Store in Boone in between. On Tuesday, he'll be in Jamestown before his bus tour takes him to Virginia.

The North Carolina Republican Party has called the tour a campaign stunt paid for with tax dollars. It's offered to pay for a tow truck to take the President's bus back to Washington.

"The President will spend his time in North Carolina and Virginia only to realize that he wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars solely demonizing Republicans," offeredNCGOP Chair Robin Hayes.

Obama won North Carolina and Virginia in 2008, and both states are important to his re-election strategy. This marks his third visit to North Carolina since June.

But Obama didn't mention the election in his speech Monday, telling the crowd after they chanted "four more years" that he is more worried about the next 13 months.

"Too many people are looking for work," he said.

North Carolina's overall economy has been hit hard, with unemployment edging into double digits, state government shedding thousands of jobs and news that Charlotte-based Bank of America has plans to lay off 30,000 workers.

The president's jobs plan would help with that because it includes transportation and infrastructure improvements that provide jobs and improve lives. Besides creating jobs, the package cuts payroll taxes for small businesses in half, a move that would help 170,000 small businesses in North Carolina.

Obama has an uphill battle to win back the North Carolina voters who supported him in 2008. A recent poll by Elon University found 57percent of NC voters disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 37 percent approving.

A Quinnipiac University poll found that 51 percent say President Obama does not deserve re-election, with 44 percent saying he does.

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