President Barack Obama has begun trying to build public support for his plan to ease unemployment and boost the U.S. economy. The president started the campaign Friday in nearby Richmond, Virginia.
Hours after laying out his $447 billion jobs plan to a joint session of Congress, President Obama took his case directly to the public.
“So this is the American Jobs Act," said President Obama. "It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, young people and the long-term unemployed. [It will] provide tax credits to businesses and workers. And it will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.”
Virginia is considered one of the “swing states” where next year’s election could be decided.
Richmond is the home city of the number-two House Republican, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of Mr. Obama’s fiercest critics.
The president invited Cantor to join him in his appearance at the University of Richmond, but the lawmaker declined, attending a separate event nearby.
However, in an opinion piece in Friday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, Cantor indicated that he is willing to support some parts of Mr. Obama’s plan, and to discuss others.
The president welcomed Cantor’s response.
“To their credit, I was glad to hear some Republicans, including your congressman, say that they see room for us to work together," said Obama. "They said that they are open to some of the proposals to create American jobs.”
Since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, Republicans in Congress have rejected almost all of his economic proposals, objecting to increased spending and deficits.
In July, what is usually a routine agreement to raise the amount of money the government can borrow turned into a weeks-long legislative battle. Afterward, the S&P credit agency downgraded the rating for U.S. government debt for the first time in history.
Public opinion polls show that a vast majority of Americans are unhappy about the way Democrats and Republicans in Washington are handling economic issues.
Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest of his presidency, and polls show that Republicans have a realistic chance of defeating his re-election bid next year.
A stagnant economy, a jobless rate stuck around nine percent, and a public perception that Mr. Obama is helpless to solve them are contributing to his political problems.
In Richmond, with the fervor of a political campaign, the president demanded action from Congress on his jobs plan.
“If you want a tax break, pass this bill," he said. "Prove you will fight as hard for tax cuts for workers and middle-class people as you do for oil companies and rich folks. Pass this bill. Let’s get something done.”
He also urged his supporters to put pressure on their lawmakers to pass the initiative.
The visit to Richmond was the first of what will likely be many presidential trips around the country to promote the jobs legislation.
The second will be next Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, the capital of another swing state.