Obama hardens tone in push for jobs bill

City A.M. Reporter
US president Barack Obama has sharpened his rhetoric in a push for his $447bn (£282.4bn) jobs package, even as polls showed Americans are sceptical of the plan.

In the latest stop on what has become a "pass this bill" tour, Obama used a campaign-style rally to press his warning to Republicans not to let election politics delay action on his proposals to reduce chronically high US unemployment.

"You need leaders who will put country before party," Obama told a cheering crowd at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "The time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now."

Obama and the Republicans - all looking toward elections in November 2012 - are locked in their third major budget battle of the year, after a near-shutdown of the government in April, a last-minute deal to avert a government default in August and now negotiations over the president's jobs plan.

Battle lines have been drawn around familiar turf: Obama wants to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations to pay for his plans; Republicans want to cut spending.

Obama has sought to pressure Republicans by taking his case on the road and accusing them of playing "political games" over jobs. But it is clear that his own 2012 re-election depends heavily on his ability to spur the stagnant American economy.

Obama's visit to the electoral swing state of North Carolina was aimed at building support for his jobs bill, which is designed to spur hiring through a mixture of tax cuts and additional government spending.

But doubts persist. A Bloomberg poll showed that 51 per cent of Americans doubt the jobs package would bring down the 9.1 per cent jobless rate, while 40 per cent thought it would.

Adding to Obama's woes, Republicans scored an upset victory in a congressional election on Tuesday in a Democratic stronghold of New York and trumpeted the win as a sign of voter discontent with the president's policies.

Less than a week after Obama unveiled his jobs plan, New York City voters handed a victory to Republican Bob Turner, a retired media executive, in a district held by a Democrat since the 1920s.

Turner - winner of a special election for the seat vacated by former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned after a Twitter sex scandal - said voters had sent the message 'Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'"

But White House spokesman Jay Carney brushed aside the notion that this could mean trouble for Obama and Democrats in the November 2012 election.

"Special elections are often unique and their outcomes do not tell you very much about future regularly scheduled elections," Carney told reporters.