Obama made the foray just hours after addressing a joint session of Congress Thursday night, exhorting lawmakers to approve the American Jobs Act he plans to send over next week. Obama's estimated $447 billion plan uses a combination of tax cuts, credit and relief to spur job creation and calls for funding to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and repair thousands of schools. Moody's estimated the president's package would create 1.9 million jobs.
Speaking before a crowd of 8,900 and amid chants of "USA, USA, USA," Obama attempted to build public support for his plan, saying people living from paycheck to paycheck cannot wait for the next election for something to get done.
"Now is not the time for people in Washington to worry about their jobs; it's time for them to worry about your jobs. It's time to put America back to work. It's time to act," Obama said, urging people to contact their representatives and demand action.
"I want you to tell your congressperson, the time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now. The time to create jobs is now."
The president planned to make a series of trips across the country to sell his proposal. The first was to Richmond, Va., to the area served by Cantor, the House minority leader.
Cantor was almost conciliatory in an interview Friday morning on CNN, saying there were a number of items in Obama's proposals on which Republicans could agree -- but there were caveats.
"I think that what Washington needs and what the American people need is for us to find some agreement here. And there are plenty of things that we can agree on," Cantor said. "For instance, the need for infrastructure spending? Sure, we believe that states have moneys right now, but Washington has tied up their ability to use those moneys, and we want to straighten out the system before you start spending more. And we don't support the idea of creating a Fannie and Freddie for roads and bridges and an infrastructure bank. We believe that you can do that and facilitate a better flow of funds to construction projects by fixing the current system. So there's plenty of us to work on together."
Obama is scheduled to travel to Ohio next week, the home state of House Speaker John Boehner.
More than half of Obama's proposal consists of payroll-tax cuts for employees and employers -- an idea the White House said it hoped would appeal to Republican lawmakers.
Advisers told The Washington Post Obama would blame Republicans for the jobs crisis if they don't accept his proposal.
About 14 million Americans are unemployed, and the jobless rate, currently 9.1 percent, is widely expected to stay above 8 percent into late 2012.
White House officials said the proposed plan, known as the American Jobs Act, was deliberately constructed from policies that previously won bipartisan support.
"The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple -- to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working," Obama said in his 32-minute speech.
"It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans and more jobs for long-term unemployed," he said.
"It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away," he said.
Boehner said Obama's proposals "merit consideration" and added he hoped Obama "gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."
Obama insisted everything in his package would be paid for by raising the target for long-term spending cuts to be negotiated by a special congressional committee.
He said he would send a detailed proposal to the committee Sept. 19.