Obama brings jobs message to Tampa, will announce $8 billion for high-speed rail
By Anne E. Kornblut
TAMPA -- Fresh off his first State of the Union address, President Obama is bringing his reframed message, focused narrowly on jobs, out into the country as he heads Thursday to this Florida city.
White House officials said they had no illusion he would receive a post-address "bounce." Instead they hoped to keep moving attention toward the administration's efforts to improve the national economy.
Obama has abandoned health care as the centerpiece of his agenda since Republicans won a Senate seat in Massachusetts last week. Leaving the solution of that legislative quagmire to Democratic leaders in Congress, the president has turned to issues that many Americans say they prefer. He did not mention health care until more than halfway through his speech on Wednesday night.
In Tampa, Obama and Vice President Biden will meet crew members working on a KC-135 Stratotanker at MacDill Air Force Base. The aircraft handles mid-air refuelings and has recently run missions back and forth to Haiti.
At 12:45 p.m., the two men will conduct a town-hall meeting that is designed as both a postscript to the State of the Union and an opportunity to put Obama in a different setting -- one that is less formal, and more directly tied to the lives of average citizens, than his usual White House appearances.
Florida represents an important swing state that has been hard-hit by foreclosures. But the policy initiative Obama plans to discuss is an $8 billion high-speed rail program, funded by the stimulus package, that will link towns across the country once it is built by local governments. Workers are expected to break ground on the Florida leg of the project soon.
"There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information," Obama said in his speech to Congress. "We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it's time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America."
The passage was typical, if not exactly inspirational.
While delivering snippets of high rhetoric on Wednesday night, Obama did not shift his administration in a new direction or unveil any fresh, sweeping goals. The address reflected the realities of his administration: It has been hemmed in by opposition forces, frustrated voters and its own mistakes, and is still stuck trying to overcome the challenges of his first year in office rather than start new work.
Obama offered a hint of humility in the speech, saying he had suffered "some political setbacks, and some of them were deserved." He said he took his "share of the blame" for not more clearly explaining his stalled health care proposal. And he reminded the audience, at the end of his 71-minute speech, that the beginning of his presidency had been rough.
"We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade," Obama said. But, he said: "A new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit."
Anne E. Kornblut
January 28, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Economy
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