ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On the tarmac of an airport badly in need of repair, President Obama this morning launched his second bus tour since August, formally announcing that his jobs bill would be broken up into parts and taking an even more combative tone with Congress.
“Maybe they couldn’t understand the whole thing at once,” the president said to laughter. “We’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces, so they –they can take a thoughtful approach…We’re going to give members of Congress another chance to step up to the plate and do the right thing.”
He said he hoped the first provision would provide funding for states and localities to continue to keep teachers, police officers, and fire fighters on the job.
The president has been faulted by congressional Democrats for not focusing enough on the economy in the first two years of his term, a criticism he tried to re-focus today. “Once you escape the partisanship and the political point-scoring in Washington, once you start really listening to the American people, it’s pretty clear what our country and your leaders should be spending their time on,” he said.
“Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” chanted the crowd.
“We should be talking about jobs,” the president agreed. “When you hear what’s going on out in the country, when you take the time to listen, you understand that a lot of folks are hurting out there.”
The Asheville appearance was the first on a three-day bus tour through two highly competitive battleground states that the president won in 2008 but may not in 2012: North Carolina and Virginia.
A recent poll of North Carolina voters by Elon University found 57% disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 37% approving. A Quinnipiac University Poll found that 51% say President Obama does not deserve re-election, with 44% saying he does.
Unlike previous appearances when he faulted the Republicans in Congress for not having a jobs plan, the president acknowledged that the other party had introduced a bill called the “Real American Jobs Act.”
But he challenged that title, saying the GOP legislation amounted to little more than a plan “to gut regulations…to let Wall Street do whatever it wants….to drill more…(And) to repeal health care reform. That’s their jobs plan.”
“I’ll let you decided which plan is the real American jobs act,” the president said.
When the supportive, modestly-sized group of just a few hundred gathered on the tarmac began chanting “Four more years! Four more years!” the president said “I appreciate the ‘Four more years,’ but right now I’m focused on the next 13 months.”
The president said he was giving the opposition another chance to embrace his bill. Last week, 51 Senate Democrats voted to bring the bill up for debate, not enough to block a threatened Republican filibuster.
“They said no to putting teachers and construction workers back on the job,” the president said, “they said no to rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports; they said no to cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses, when all they’ve been doing is cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans…. Essentially, they said no to you, because it turns out one poll found that 63 percent of Americans support the ideas in this jobs bill.”
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from last week indicated that those “surveyed had a higher opinion of Mr. Obama’s plan after pollsters listed its provisions. Once the central elements were enumerated-such as a payroll-tax cut and new road construction, as well as the fact that it would be funded by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations-63% said they favored the measure and 32% did not.”
The numbers are more challenging for the president when the plan is not explained in detail. The Elon poll indicated that 36% of Tarheel State voters say Congress should vote against President Obama’s jobs bill, with 35% supporting its passage and 28% not sure.
Those 28 percent are largely why the president is here today.
The president cited one study that concluded that the president’s jobs plan could create as many as 1.9 million job and contrasted it with a comments made by Gus Faucher, the director of macroeconomics at Moody’s Analytics, who told the Washington Post that the GOP plan “could be harmful in the short run, if the focus is on cutting spending.”
-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce