ASHEVILLE, N.C. – President Obama launched a three-day bus tour of critical swing states here Monday by drawing a sharp distinction between the jobs plans offered by his administration and congressional Republicans and telling his supporters to decide which is the “real American jobs plan.”
Less than a week after the Senate blocked his $447 billion American Jobs Act, Obama arrived at the Asheville Airport on Air Force One and walked across the tarmac to a crowd waiting for him around a stage with a large American flag.
Obama told the crowd that he and Senate Democrats will re-offer his jobs package in smaller legislative bills based on the individual components in the plan, including $50 billion infrastructure spending and tax incentives for small business owners. He contrasted it with a House Republican plan that focuses on streamlining regulation to help business owners grow their companies.
“You’ve got their plan and you’ve got my plan,” Obama told the audience. “We’re giving members of Congress another chance to step up to the plate and do the right thing. We’re going to give them another chance to do their jobs by looking after your jobs.”
He added sarcastically: “This week, I’m asking members of Congress to vote – we’re going to break up my jobs bill. Maybe they couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once. We’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces.”
The Asheville stop was the first on the bus tour that will take Obama to Wilkesboro and Guilford, N.C., and Ragsdale, Emporium and Chesterfield, Va. The two states, which Obama carried in the 2008 election, are considered crucial for his chances at re-election next year, and opinion polls have shown he faces a tough fight in each.
Obama, as he has in previous stops on his national jobs tour, warned that Republicans will face a political price for not supporting his proposals.
“If they vote against these proposals again, if they vote against taking steps now to put Americans back to work right now,” Obama said, “then they’re not going to have to answer to me, they’re going to have to answer to you.”
Whie House aides have said the president expects the Senate to first take up a proposal in the jobs package to spend $35 billion in direct aid to state and local governments to hire and retain teachers, police officers and fire fighters. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to announce Monday afternoon that he will introduce that proposal this week.
But Republicans have opposed any new stimulus spending, arguing that Obama’s 2009 stimulus failed to boost the economy as the president had promised.
After his speech, Obama boarded a specially equipped black bus with dark-tinted windows to travel to his next scheduled stop — a high school in Miller’s Creek, N.C., located in a largely Republican county.
Two Obama supporters in the Asheville crowd — Blair Jenkins, 56, of Flatrock, N.C., and Linda Thiry, 61, of Hendersonville — said they are increasingly worried about the president’s standing in the state and his re-election chances.
“I feel like in this part of North Carolina we really need to come out and show support. There are a lot of people who do support him, but we stay really quiet because it’s a conservative area,” said Jenkins, a retired fundraiser for the arts and health industries. “I think the liberals are way too willing to sit back and be silent because we feel outnumbered. I think we’re going to have to get back up like we were in ‘08 and start speaking up.”
Thiry, who runs an outpatient physical therapy center, said: “The president is just a graceful man and sometimes he doesn’t speak up for himself and sometimes the Republicans just get really loud and just spew all this stuff.”