Authors: Joshua Cohan
(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) -- On the tarmac of an airport badly in need of repair, President Obama on Monday launched his second bus tour since August, and formally announced that his jobs bill would be broken up into parts, taking an even more combative tone with -- even insulting -- Congress.
“Maybe they couldn’t understand the whole thing at once,” the president said to laughter. “We’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces, so they -- they can take a thoughtful approach…We’re going to give members of Congress another chance to step up to the plate and do the right thing.”
He said he hoped the first provision would provide funding for states and localities to continue to keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters on the job.
The president has been faulted by congressional Democrats for not focusing enough on the economy in the first two years of his term, a criticism he tried to re-focus Monday. “Once you escape the partisanship and the political point-scoring in Washington, once you start really listening to the American people, it’s pretty clear what our country and your leaders should be spending their time on,” he said.
“Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” chanted the crowd.
“We should be talking about jobs,” the president agreed. “When you hear what’s going on out in the country, when you take the time to listen, you understand that a lot of folks are hurting out there.”
The Asheville appearance was the first on a three-day bus tour through two highly competitive battleground states that the president won in 2008 but may not in 2012: North Carolina and Virginia.
A recent poll of North Carolina voters by Elon University found 57 percent disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 37 percent approving. A Quinnipiac University Poll found that 51 percent say President Obama does not deserve re-election, with 44 percent saying he does.
Unlike previous appearances when he faulted the Republicans in Congress for not having a jobs plan, the president acknowledged that the other party had introduced a bill called the “Real American Jobs Act.”
But he challenged that title, saying the GOP legislation amounted to little more than a plan “to gut regulations...to let Wall Street do whatever it wants...to drill more...(And) to repeal health care reform. That’s their jobs plan.”
“I’ll let you decided which plan is the real American jobs act,” the president said.
When the supportive, modestly-sized group of just a few hundred gathered on the tarmac began chanting “Four more years! Four more years!” the president said “I appreciate the ‘Four more years,’ but right now I’m focused on the next 13 months.”
The president said he was giving the opposition another chance to embrace his bill. Last week, 51 Senate Democrats voted to bring the bill up for debate, not enough to block a threatened Republican filibuster.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio