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'Underdog' Obama slams GOP foe over stymied jobs bill

05 october 2011, 17:20
US President Barack Obama unleashed a direct personal attack on a top Republican foe Tuesday, as his lurching poll numbers added weight to his admission he is the "underdog" in the 2012 election, AFP reports.

Obama lashed out at Eric Cantor, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, who said Monday the president's $447 billion jobs bill was effectively dead, though some pieces could pass as stand alone measures.

"He won't even give it a vote," said Obama in excerpts of a speech he was due to deliver in Mesquite, outside Dallas, Texas, in the latest swing of his countrywide campaign to build pressure on lawmakers to pass the bill.

"I'd like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn't believe in," Obama said.

"Does he not believe in rebuilding America's roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?

"Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you'd rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle-class."

The White House says the mixture of payroll tax cut extensions and infrastructure spending is the best way to revive robust economic growth, but Republicans say it is another attempt at stimulus spending which will not work.

Some senior Democratic lawmakers have also expressed reservations about aspects of the bill and it is unclear whether sufficient members of Obama's own party will agree to back the package to drive it through the Senate.

Obama boarded Air Force One after new polls revealed the tough electoral environment he faces as he fires up his reelection effort.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll put his approval rating at 42 percent, a new low, and his disapproval rating at 54 percent, a new high.

Only 37 percent of those asked said they expect Obama to win reelection, a statistic pollsters said was worrying as expectations can drive grass roots enthusiasm for a candidate.

Fifty-five percent of those asked expected the Republican candidate to win the White House in 13 months time.

The numbers reflected deep public pessimism over the economy.

In a Gallup survey last week, only 22 percent of those asked thought the economy was better than a year ago. Some 35 percent said it was the same and 42 percent said it was worse.

Such data was reflected in Obama's downbeat comments on his own prospects for 2012 on Monday, which may have been a calculated attempt to lower expectations.

"I don't mind, I am used to being an underdog," he said in an interview with Yahoo.com and ABC News.

Obama also conceded that Americans did not feel better off than they did four years ago, as he faced a famous question posed by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 which helped snuff out Democrat Jimmy Carter's presidency.

"Well, I don't think they're better off than they were four years ago," Obama said, arguing that the financial crisis which erupted in late 2008 had triggered an "extraordinary recession" which he had tried to deal with.

"We've been able to make steady progress to stabilize the economy. But the unemployment rate is still way too high," he said.

Obama's trip to Texas and St. Louis, Missouri, which included four campaign events and one official speech on the jobs bill, came on what may turn out to be a defining day in the Republican Party 2012 nominating race.

Tough talking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who faced mounting calls to dive into the race amid perceptions several top Republican front runners are flawed, was expected to pass on a 2012 run.

Though Obama's prospects for reelection are clouded by the poor economy and depressed personal poll numbers, he still runs neck and neck in most surveys against Republican favorites Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

The president appears to retain a narrow path towards a second term, based on consolidating his Democratic base vote and winning back a portion of independent voters who have deserted him since 2008.

Senior Obama aides say privately they are seeking to force Republicans into a corner from which they will have to tell voters why they are against a jobs bill Obama says will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost growth.

But Republicans brand the president inflexible and say the package of payroll tax cut extensions and infrastructure spending will do little to boost growth, and demand a dismantling of regulations on big business.

By Stephen Collinson

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