ABC News' Rachel Martin, Matt Gutman and Karen Travers report:
After talking about making jobs priority number one last night in his State of the Union address, the President today hit the road to hammer the message home.
President Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, addressed a crowd of about 3,000 people at the University of Tampa, announcing a plan to invest $8 billion in stimulus money (with another $5 billion in five years) into 13 high speed rail projects around the country, including a system linking the Tampa and Orlando areas.
Vice President Biden said building a modern national rail system will cost far more than $8 billion but that this is a "down payment on a truly national program that will reshape the way we travel…and change the way we work and live."
At the event, the President essentially gave a streamlined version of his State of the Union address, focusing his rhetoric on jobs: "We're not going to rest until we've rebuilt an economy in which our hard work is rewarded…and the middle class can get its legs underneath it again. "
He tried to evoke an optimistic tone saying, "The worst of the storm is passed but I think all of you understand the devastation remains. One in ten Americans still can't find work, that's why creating jobs has to be our number one priority in 2010."
To that end, the President said investing in high speed rail is a key part of the immediate economic recovery as well as an investment in America's future global competitiveness against Europe and Asia – which already boast top end high speed rail systems. "We want to start looking deep into the 21st century and we want to say to ourselves there's no reason that other countries can build high speed rails lines and we can't."
The President again defended his overall agenda with an air of defiance. "We ran to get the tough stuff done. I make no apology for trying to fix stuff that's hard. Because, I'll be honest with you, Joe and I are both pretty smart politicians…the easiest way to keep your poll numbers high is to say nothing and do nothing that offends anyone. You just wave and smile, that's how ya do it. The minute you actually start doing something, someone's going to disagree with you. "
Mr. Obama said he is governing exactly how he promised he would when he was a candidate in 2008. "I wasn't just going to tell you what you want to hear. I'm going to tell you what you need to hear."
He also took aim at the press specifically, "Our friends with the pads and pencils ." Specifically the suggestion in the press that he has channeled a more populist tone in the weeks since the Massachusetts Senate election which put his party and his agenda on the ropes."
"I just have to do a little rewind of how we ran our grassroots campaign. I've got some news of my own here. I've been fighting for working folks my entire life."
He again talked about the need for real bi-partisanship in Washington: " I want the Republicans to get off the sidelines. I want them working with us, not to score points. I want a partnership."
During the question and answer portion of the event the President took off his coat, and handed it to Vice President Biden, who stood up from his seat to take it, and then clutched it throughout the remainder of the president’s Q and A. With his shirt sleeves rolled up, the president, clearly enjoying himself, fielded about half a dozen questions on a range of topics from the crisis in the Middle East (a question he somewhat artfully dodged by calling the situation in the Middle East a problem that has plagued the region for generations) to gay rights. He did take a question from one small businessman who complained that if he could only get a loan from a bank, he could hire up to 500 new employees.
Overall, the President's message: times are tough and he's not backing down. "Won't stop fighting for your future, no matter how many lumps we take to get it done."