President Obama took his State of the Union sales pitch for tax-code changes aimed at boosting manufacturing on the road Wednesday in a campaign-style swing through five battleground election states.
The president made his first stop at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, plant that makes conveyor-belt screws. He spoke on the factory floor, against a banner with the words: "An America Built to Last."
Underscoring the central message of his Tuesday night State of the Union speech, Mr. Obama said he was determined to restore the basic promise of America and rebuilding the middle class, and "it starts with manufacturing."
"It's an economy built on manufacturing made right here in America," Mr. Obama said. "It's an economy of renewal built on American values. Heartland values. They're values Iowans know all about: hard work, responsibility and the same set of rules for everybody from Main Street to Wall Street."
Mr. Obama also talked about the rising labor costs in China, and the decision by some companies to return operations to the U.S. and called on Congress to close tax loopholes that encourage companies to send jobs overseas.
"We are as competitive as we've ever been," Mr. Obama said. "And for a lot of these companies, it's starting to make a lot of sense to bring jobs back home. We must seize the opportunity to help these companies succeed."
Late in the afternoon, he traveled to Arizona, a state he lost in 2008 but hopes the growing Latino population will help him capture this year. But Arizona is politically polarized - especially when it comes to immigration and sealing its border with Mexico.
When he got off the plane he was greeted by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and the two engaged in what appeared to be a testy exchange witnessed by reporters.
In 2010, Mrs. Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law that requires state law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of someone they've stopped, detained or arrested if there is "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally. Civil rights groups have attacked the law as discriminatory and Mr. Obama has called it "misguided." He and Mrs. Brewer have had a rocky relationship ever since.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, rapped Mr. Obama ahead of the trip, arguing that he should visit the border during his brief "taxpayer-funded campaign stop" and explain to Arizona's unemployed why his administration banned mining in the state, a decision he said cost precious jobs.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also blasted the president for such an obvious campaign-related stop in the state.
"Arizonans continue to wait for him to deliver on his promises of his campaign that he gave to us the first time around, unfortunately, he's more intent on giving more speeches, more rhetoric and more unfulfilled promises," Mr. Priebus said.
The president went on to deliver a speech at Intel's Ocotillo Campus in Chandler, Ariz., which the governor notably did not attend.
Standing in front of a huge construction crane, Mr. Obama praised the microchip company for building a new factory there, which will employ nearly 1,000 workers.
"We have an opportunity to create more high-tech jobs ... but we're going to have to seize the moment ... that starts by changing our tax system," he said.
Earlier in the day, the White House provided details of Mr. Obama's proposals for new tax breaks for manufacturing and U.S. companies that decide to return to making products domestically rather than overseas.
White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling told reporters on a conference call that the new tax incentives would not add to the deficit.
The packages consists of a half dozen new tax proposals the president wants Congress to pass soon, and his economic advisers promised to detail even more corporate tax reforms in the next few weeks before the White House plans to send its budget to Congress on Feb. 13.
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