Obama Rallies Support Ahead of Jobs Speech

BY News Desk  September 5, 2011 at 1:06 PM EDT

President Obama speaks during Labor Day celebrations on September 5, 2011 outside General Motor’s world headquarters in Detroit, Mich. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Days after the August jobs report showed zero growth — and ahead of a prime-time speech on Thursday on ways to spur job creation — President Obama delivered an address at a GM lot in Detroit, Mich. to gin up support for his plan. Several Republican presidential contenders also seized on the holiday to promote their economic platforms in an election cycle already dominated by a struggling U.S. economy.

President Obama rallied support for his Thursday speech, hinting at the main concepts but avoiding specifics.

“On Thursday we’re going to lay out a new way forward on jobs to grow the economy and put more Americans back to work right now. I don’t want to give everything away right here because I want you all to tune in on Thursday but I’ll give you just a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.” The president said the “more than one million unemployed construction workers” could be put to work on infrastructure projects, if Congress approved.

Acknowledging the tough economic environment, President Obama said “We’ve come through a difficult decade. We have a lot more work to do to recover fully.”

The president also called for an extension of the payroll tax cut, which he said translated to an extra thousand dollars, on average, for many Americans.

“I think putting money back in the pockets of working families is the best way to get demand rising, because that then means business is hiring, and that means the economy is growing. So I’m going to propose ways to get America back to work that both parties can agree to,” he said.

Some Republicans said the president has already lost the support of organized labor, a group he mentioned frequently during his nearly half-hour speech, and that this was an opportunity to win their votes back.

“Whether they’re Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Tea Party activists or Libertarians, they all realize this is nothing more than the beginning of a reelection campaign,” Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak told the Detroit News earlier in the day.

President Obama also had harsh words for congressional Republicans, saying it was time to “put country ahead of party.”

“The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises, no more games,” he said.

The president also heaped praise on the labor movement for helping create “the greatest middle class the world has ever known,” and vowed that as long as he was in office he would defend collective bargaining, a statement met with chants of “four more years.”

In the Republican sphere, Mitt Romney marked the holiday by pointing to his upcoming speech on the economy, saying in a statement that “[a]s we celebrate this Labor Day, we should not forget the great many families facing economic hardship. Over 25 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed, or so discouraged that they have stopped even looking for a job. This week I will outline a comprehensive plan to put America back on the road to economic growth and job creation.”

At a town hall in South Carolina Monday, Texas governor Rick Perry took the opportunity to attack Republican rival Romney, who has suggested that his experience as a businessman would help put the U.S. economy back on track. “While he was the governor of Massachusetts he didn’t create many jobs,” Perry said. He also criticized the president, saying that his Thursday jobs speech should include a repeal of “Obamacare” and regulations put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency.