HAMPTON, Va. -- President Obama is employing the services of the first lady on the final leg of his three-day bus tour as they tout proposals in the president's jobs bill that the White House says would put more of the nation's unemployed veterans back to work.
The president's day-long swing through Virginia also has deep political undertones. Obama won the traditionally Republican-leaning state in 2008, but his poll numbers here are down, and some of the state's high-profile Democrats are staying away from the president's events.
Obama will first make a joint appearance with his wife, Michelle, Wednesday before airmen and soldiers at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, to announce a deal with the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses. The White House said the American Logistics Association, which includes major companies like Tyson Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., is aiming to meet that goal by the end of 2013.
"We ask our men and women in uniform to leave their careers, leave their families and risk their lives to fight for our country," Obama said in a statement released ahead of the event. "The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home."
As Obama has been traveling through North Carolina and Virginia this week, lawmakers back in Washington were taking the first steps to break his nearly $450 billion jobs bill into pieces for possible votes. It's the only way elements of the measure stand a chance of passing, given that Senate Republicans blocked action on the full package last week.
The bus trip has given the president the opportunity to promote elements of his jobs plan in places the White House says would benefit most should the measures pass. Obama has spoken at high schools and community colleges where the administration says new spending would prevent teacher layoffs, as well as a small, regional area airport near Asheville, N.C., where Obama pressed for government funds to renovate an outdated runway.
Wednesday's stops were to follow a similar pattern.
During his remarks at the military facility Wednesday, Obama was expected to single out a provision in his jobs bill that calls for new tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and wounded troops. He's proposed a Returning Heroes tax credit of up to $5,600 for businesses that hire unemployed veterans who have been out of work for six months or more, as well as a Wounded Warriors tax credit of nearly $10,000 for unemployed veterans with service-related disabilities who also have been looking for work for at least six months.
From there, Obama will get back in his imposing, million-dollar bus for a three-hour drive to North Chesterfield, Va., where he was to speak at a local fire station. He's trying to rally support for the first piece of the jobs bill Senate Democrats plan to take up, a $35 billion package of assistance for state and local governments aimed at keeping firefighters, as well as police officers and teachers, on the job.
Republicans have criticized Obama's bus trip as being more focused on selling the president's re-election than solving the country's economic woes. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday: ""Let's park the campaign bus, put away the talking points, and do something to address this jobs crisis."
Though Obama solidly won Virginia in 2008, his poll numbers in the state have dropped into the mid- to low-forties, in line with national trends. Top Virginia Democrats, including Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, are not expected to appear with the president Wednesday, nor is Tim Kaine, the former governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who is running to replace the retiring Webb.
However, Virginia's popular Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell did meet with the president Wednesday morning at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
McDonnell has invited Obama to join him on a tour of Mineral, Va., epicenter of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast in August. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Virginia's request for disaster aid from the quake, and the White House said Obama has no plans to travel to Mineral.