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Obama in Campaign Groove as He Pushes Jobs Bill

Obama in Campaign Groove as He Pushes Jobs Bill

By Alexis Simendinger - September 9, 2011


RICHMOND, Va. -- Barack Obama campaigned here like it was 2008 all over again. But the incumbent's "Yes We Can" refrain now has a new re-election chorus.

"Pass this bill!" the president shouted Friday to a cheering crowd of nearly 9,000 gathered at the University of Richmond’s athletic arena.

"Four more years!" his admirers screamed back.

"I'm going to need your help," the president told students and community residents who had waited in long lines for tickets the day before.

“You’ve got it!” a fan yelled from the bleachers.

“The American people do not have the luxury of waiting another 14 months for some action --”

“Amen!” a young woman, standing on tip-toes, called out to the president.

“Pass this bill now and put these folks to work!” Obama bellowed.

Whether the audience believed the president was selling a $447 billion jobs plan or his best arguments for four more years in the Oval Office, he was decidedly, most definitely in a campaign groove. Republicans in Congress, Obama said, are roadblocks to sensible efforts to bolster economic renewal, which is why he is traveling the country to urge Americans to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill.

Obama won Virginia, a key swing state, by nearly six points in 2008. His re-election team has been building a staff and ground organization here since last spring. Richmond happens to be represented in Congress by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a frequent Obama critic, cited in passing by the president as “your congressman.” Obama said he noted that neither Cantor nor House Speaker John Boehner rejected his proposed menu of tax cuts and new spending initiatives out of hand. (The president will visit Boehner’s state, Ohio, next week to deliver the same message.)

The White House this week invited Cantor to attend the president’s university appearance, but the congressman hosted his own jobs event later in the day at a building materials company in Richmond called Titan America.

Coming off the address to a joint session of Congress, Obama’s energized performance in Richmond pleased former Virginia governors Doug Wilder and Tim Kaine, who both sat in the VIP corral during the Richmond rally.

“You could feel it,” Wilder said, grinning broadly after the president’s remarks. “He’s enjoying it.” When Obama told the audience he and Congress should put politics aside, “I thought to myself, ‘When?’ ” Wilder told RCP, laughing with gusto.

Indeed, the White House made no bones about the Obama’s pitch to voters and his complaints that Republicans are trying to deep-six his ideas to the detriment of struggling middle-class Americans. The president wants congressional GOP leaders to “understand that their constituents, specifically in their districts in Ohio and Virginia . . . are demanding action out of Washington; function instead of dysfunction,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Friday.

The president’s take-it-to-the-streets strategy is part of what delighted Wilder as he listened to the boisterous crowd in Richmond, a city he previously led as mayor. To win Virginia, Obama has to visit the state, talking to voters directly, he said.

“I told him that one of the things a politician can never do is forget who he is talking to, and that is the people,” Wilder continued. “If you speak with the people foremost, you can’t fail, and I think he’s doing that.”

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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