On bus tour, Obama seizes on US discontent
Posted: 18 October 2011 0503 hrs
MILLERS CREEK, North Carolina: US President Barack Obama sought to tap public discontent with big money elites on Monday as he kicked off a campaign-style bus tour to blame Republican obstructionism for the souring economy.
Obama opened a three-day swing through North Carolina and Virginia as he struggles to maintain his standing with voters over the economy, especially in the two southern states he narrowly won in 2008.
The road trip comes with Obama's $447 billion jobs bill - touted by the White House as the best way to bring down the high 9.1 percent unemployment rate - stuck in the Senate, where Republican lawmakers have blocked a vote on the plan.
"Maybe they cannot understand the whole thing at once," Obama said at the rally, to laughter. "We're going to break it into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation."
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was expected to announce that he will begin bringing parts of the legislation forward this week.
Obama said a poll showed 63 percent of Americans support his bill but "100 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against it. That doesn't make any sense, does it?"
He said the Republican plan "says we should go back to the good old days before the financial crisis when Wall Street was writing its own rules. They want to roll back all the reforms that we put into place."
Ahead of the speech, White House officials drew a connection between public frustrations on display in the spreading Occupy Wall Street protests and Republican efforts to roll back reforms of the financial community.
"There is a link between two things," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on the flight down to North Carolina.
"One, the frustrations that regular folks - middle-class Americans feel about the state of the economy, the need for growth to improve, and certainly the need for job creation to improve."
"And there is a related frustration that a lot of Americans feel about the idea that Wall Street in the past played by different rules than Main Street," he said.
"Following on that, there is frustration now I believe with the efforts by some to roll back the protections the president fought so hard to put into place through the Wall Street reform act that was passed and signed into law."
In the two key swing states, Obama will seek to reconfigure his 2008 coalition of young voters, educated middle-class voters and minorities for his bruising campaign to keep the White House for another four years.
Obama found support from those turning out to hear him.
"We're still behind him. He's doing all he can do. He just needs somebody out here to work with him," said Margaret Swain, 51, an assistant at an elementary school.
But Swain, who was among a crowd gathered at the airport to hear Obama speak against a backdrop of autumn foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains, acknowledged concerns over the economic hard times, and the need for jobs.
"We need more and more, something that pays decent wages to get people back to work, so they can spend the money to get the economy going back," she told AFP.
US Senator John McCain, Obama's defeated Republican rival for the White House in 2008, was sharply critical Monday of what he called the president's "government-knows-best approach," saying that to right the economy, the administration needs to unshackle private enterprise.
Speaking from the floor of the Senate, he also accused Obama of running for re-election "on the taxpayers' dime" and chided him for "travelling around on a Canadian bus touting American jobs" - a reference to the US Secret Service-designed armoured vehicle the president uses.
Still, he said, "I also hope there are areas where we can find common ground," notably on a tax code overhaul and efforts to revive the battered housing sector.
The White House hopes to force Republicans into tough votes that will see the party's lawmakers facing the prospect of voting against extending payroll taxes, tax hikes for the rich and money to help war veterans find work.
For Obama to win against the TEA Party; the bulwark of the GOP and the ones who have seized the narrative in the present GOP leadership --- he must find an idealogy, an initiative that will resonate with the electorate, tantamount to a shift or what the biz press label as a movement.
In connecting the dots and tapping on the Wall St demonstrators discontent, Obama may find the next wind needed to overcome the stubbornly entrenched TEA Party movement of the GOP.