President Obama, continuing his sales pitch for his jobs plan, offered some tough love for the nation Thursday when he told an Orlando television station that the United States “had gotten a little soft” over the past couple of decades.

Obama was was being interviewed by Jim Payne, an anchor for WESH television, when Payne noted that he was about the same age as the 50-year-old president and was worried that his children would not have the same opportunities that their parents’ generation had.

In his answer, Obama said: “The way I think about it is this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn’t have that same competitive edge we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track. But I still wouldn’t trade our position with any country’s on Earth. We still have the best universities and scientists and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world. We need to bring all those things together.”

Obama interviewed with Payne and two other local television anchors Thursday, part of a series of interviews the president has granted in recent months to reporters outside the White House press corps.

Some of the interviews have been aimed at key electoral swing states. Obama promised Payne that he would be visiting Florida often before the November 2012 elections.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.1 percent, Obama has been taking his $447 billion jobs package on the road, planning trips to Dallas and St. Louis on Tuesday.

“Even before the financial crisis, one of the reasons I ran for president is that wages and incomes had flatlined as costs were going up,” he told Payne. “Opportunity was becoming more constricted for the next generation.”

But it was Obama’s remarks about the country having gotten soft that has received the most attention, not all of it positive. “Obama still making excuses,” read a headline in the Daily Mail in England.