Obama rallies support for jobs bill in N.C.

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverSeptember 14, 2011 

President Barack Obama demanded that Congress approve his jobs bill in a speech today at N.C. State University, saying "it puts more people back to work and it puts more money back into the pockets of working Americans."

Obama repeatedly insisted that Congress "pass this jobs bill right now."

The speech had the mood of a rally, and Obama appeared in campaign mode as he touted his $447 billion proposal, a stock pot filled with tax cuts, government spending and other projects designed to stimulate the stagnant U.S. economy.

He took the stage in a white dress shirt with the cuffs rolled up amid deafening cheers from the crowd.

N.C. State senior David Chung watched from the side of the stage. He entered college in 2007, just before the state's housing market crumbled, crippling the broader economy in a growing state.

Chung, a computer science major and registered Democrat from Charlotte, acknowledged that his academic pursuits have shielded him from the brunt of the economy. But now, as he prepares to graduate in May, he is thinking more about how it will affect him.

"I'm somewhat optimistic," said the computer science major. "But at the same time, I'm still a little worried."

That mood pervaded the crowd of students, faculty members and area residents, which nearly filled the 9,100-seat coliseum. Organizers said they had distributed 8,000 tickets to the event.

Two hours before the speech, the burgeoning crowd forced organizers to open more seating, and an hour before the president's expected arrival, those with tickets were still lined up for blocks waiting to get in.

As the crowd waited, chants of "O-ba-ma," fell flat and failed to incite the energy of the entire crowd. The N.C. State marching band helped fill the void with campaign-styled music, including country act Brooks & Dunn's "Only in America."

Obama's visit to North Carolina is his second in four months, a sign of the state's battleground status in the 2012 election. In less than a year, the Democratic National Convention will take place in Charlotte.

Obama's approval rating in North Carolina is at 43 percent with 53 percent disapproving, according to early September numbers from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey group.

Gov. Bev Perdue met Obama on the tarmac at Raleigh-Durham International Airport when the president arrived just before 11 a.m., along with a host of local elected officials.

The president first visited WestStar Precision, a small manufacturing company owned by Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman, a Democrat who gave to Obama's 2008 campaign.

Portman's company came under fire from Republicans ahead of the president's visit because it built a facility in Costa Rica.

But Portman said the investment allowed him to triple his local workforce.

"We are hiring people and if Republicans want to be cynical and talk about the fact that (the Costa Rica jobs) are abroad, I'll just say that every Republican donor who runs corporation around the world -- let's look at where your employees are," he said.

Obama said he came to Raleigh to highlight businesses like WestStar. "What they do is what a lot of companies in the Research Triangle do so well. "They create something of lasting value."

More coverage of Obama's N.C. visit can be found at www.newsobserver.com.

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