ABC News’ Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) Reports:
CANNON FALLS, MINN – Kicking off his Midwest jobs tour today, President Obama blasted Republicans for failing to take the steps necessary to reduce the deficit and grow the economy.
“There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed. What’s broken is our politics,” Obama said at a town hall event in Cannon Falls, Minn., the first stop on his three-day, three-state bus tour through the Midwest focused on jobs and the economy.
Positioning himself as anti-Washington, Obama made clear his belief that partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill is partly to blame for the sluggish economic recovery.
“There is nothing that we’re facing that we can’t solve with some spirit of ‘America first,’ a willingness to say… we’re going to choose country over party, we’re going to choose the next generation over the next election,” he told the crowd of 500 gathered at a riverside park in the town of roughly 4,000 people. “If we are willing to do that, then I have absolutely no doubt that we can get this economy going again, we can put people to work back again, small businesses can start growing again.”
The president also targeted his GOP presidential opponents, although not by name. Obama said he was particularly shocked at last week’s GOP debate, when all eight candidates said they would reject a deficit-reduction plan with 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases.
“I mean, that’s just not common sense,” Obama said.
While the White House insists the trip is official presidential business and not a campaign event, parts of the president’s speech sounded like a rallying cry for Obama 2012.
“I’m here to enlist you in a fight. We are fighting for the future of our country. And that is a fight that we are going to win. That is a promise that I make, with your help,” he said.
But Republicans aren’t the only ones to blame, the president conceded. “Democrats aren’t always as flexible as we need to be. I mean, sometimes I do get frustrated when I hear folks say you can’t make any changes to any government programs. Well, that can’t be right,” he said.
Obama reiterated his call for Congress to pass stalled measures that he said would help create jobs immediately, including extending the payroll tax cut, reforming the patent system, and investing in infrastructure.
“There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now. What is needed is action on the part of Congress, a willingness to put the partisan games aside and say we’re going to do what’s right for the country, not what we think is going to score some political points for the next election,” he said.
Going forward the president urged the largely supportive crowd to get involved in the fight. “You’ve got to send a message to Washington that it’s time for the games to stop. It’s time to put country first,” he said.
During the Q and A portion of the event, the president fielded questions ranging from health care to education to medical marijuana.
While it may be one of his opponents’ favorite lines, Obama said he had no issue with the phrase “Obamacare” to refer to the Affordable Care Act.
“Let me tell you, I have no problem with folks saying “Obama cares.” I do care,” Obama said. “If the other side wants to be the folks who don’t care — that’s fine with me.”
Next stop… Decorah, Iowa.