Following a string of disappointing reports on the state of the economy, President Obama visited a high-tech lighting business in Durham, N.C., on Monday to announce a program designed to increase long-term economic growth.
With the help from his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the president announced a new program that would train 10,000 new American engineers every year.
"If we're going to make sure the good jobs of tomorrow stay here in America, we've got to make sure all our companies have a steady stream of skilled workers to draw from," Obama said.
Obama won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes in the 2008 election, but the state has averaged 10.6 percent unemployment during his presidency. It is considered a swing state this time around and could be key to him getting 270 electoral votes. A significant sign of how important Democrats view the Tar Heel State is that Charlotte was picked as the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
But the North Carolina Republican Party is promising a fight. The state's GOP, led by former Rep. Robin Hayes, started running an ad hammering the president’s record ahead of his visit. Hayes said Obama hasn't done enough to put people back to work. "Unemployment is up. Everything we want to have that is going to help us is just not happening," Hayes said. "Gas prices [are] up a 100 percent. Things are not where they need to be."
Beyond North Carolina, experts say the president's advisers see weakness in Pennsylvania and Ohio -- states with a sizable chunks of electoral votes. And experts predict a likely loss in a place like Indiana, which Obama won in 2008. "Those are electoral votes that are gone by the wayside," University of Virginia's Larry Sabato said. "Obama also has to find substitutions potentially for states like Ohio and the logical substitutions are in the South."
Part of this visit to North Carolina was spotlighting Cree, Inc., which received more than $12 million in stimulus money and tax credits of $39 million and has added more than 740 jobs. The president touted the high-tech company's accomplishments: "At Cree, we are putting people back to work in a field that has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses right here in America and that's clear energy."
"I think they've left the president wide open for criticism in some respects" he said.
Fox's Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.