Obama begins bus tour in NC to promote jobs bill

By Mitch Weiss

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 11:25 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama walks past a statue as he goes to visit with people on a stop to Countryside Barbecue in Marion in N.C., Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. Obama is on a three-day bus tour promoting the American Jobs Act.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — ASHEVILLE, N.C. — For Scott Anderson, President Barack Obama's message hit home.

The 34-year-old construction worker from Asheville has been out of work for almost a year and listened Monday as Obama touted his jobs bill, which is stalled in the Senate.

The president said the package would turn around the troubled economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs for teachers, police officers, firefighters and construction workers.

"This is what the country needs," said Anderson, a father of three. "The people in Washington fight with each other all the time. They never think about what's good for the people. What's good for working people. They don't know how tough it is for a lot of folks out here."

Obama made his pitch for a jobs bills before an enthusiastic crowd of about 2,000 people at the Asheville Regional Airport. It marked the beginning of a three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia. He speaks at West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek later in the day.

The president told the crowd on an airport runway that he was going to break up his jobs bill into smaller parts and ask Congress to approve them individually.

Noting that Republicans in Senate rejected consideration of his whole $447 billion plan, Obama sought anew to turn that vote against them.

"Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole thing at once, so we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces," Obama said.

Obama won North Carolina and Virginia in 2008, and both states are important to his re-election strategy. But Obama didn't mention the election, telling the crowd after they chanted "four more years" that he is more worried about the next 13 months.

"Too many people are looking for work," he said.

Republicans denounced the bus trip as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded campaign trip through two must-win states to try to bolster his standing for the 2012 election.

Obama kept up his strategy of taking his case to voters, saying that a recent poll showed public backing for his proposals.

He told his audience that when Republicans in the Senate voted against his bill, "essentially, they said no to you."

Obama's speech was tailored to voters like Anderson, a Democrat who forms a critical part of his base. Without their support, the president would face tough sledding in his re-election bid.

North Carolina's overall economy has been hit hard, with unemployment edging into double digits, state government shedding thousands of jobs and news that Charlotte-based Bank of America has plans to lay off 30,000 workers.

The president's jobs plan would help with that because it includes transportation and infrastructure improvements that provide jobs and improve lives. Besides creating jobs, the package cuts payroll taxes for small businesses in half, a move that would help 170,000 small businesses in North Carolina.

Anderson said the president has to "keep up pressure on Congress."

"He needs to keep fighting for working people and we'll stand behind him," he said.

Pegg Doody, 66, of Hendersonville, agreed. She attended the rally with her 10-year-old grandson, Parker.

"The president is fighting an uphill battle," she said. "He inherited this economic problem and he's doing everything he can to fix it. But it takes time. You can't undo this big mess overnight. And it doesn't help when Congress is acting like a bunch of children. "

She said she is worried about her children's and grandchildren's futures.

"The American Dream is slipping away," said Doody, a retired teacher. "We're trying to keep the faith but it's hard."

Ed Young, 82, of Cashiers, said if the economy doesn't turn around, Obama will be a "one-term president."

"I like that he's out here, and I know he's fighting hard to create jobs. But time is running out."

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