MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama told his supporters on Friday he could break Washington’s gridlock in a second term, and pushed Congress to enact his “to-do list” prescriptions to heal the economy in spite of it being an election year.
At a political fundraiser in Minneapolis, Obama said that if he won re-election in November, Republicans in Congress who now oppose his every move would be more inclined to work with him.
“I believe if we are successful in this election - when we’re successful in this election - that the fever may break,” Obama told the campaign event.
“My hope and my expectation is that after the election - now that it turns out the goal of beating Obama doesn’t make much sense because I’m not running again - that we can start getting some cooperation again,” he said.
The Democratic president has repeatedly blamed his opponents on Capitol Hill for blindly opposing his efforts to kick-start growth and job creation in the hopes that bad economic news would hurt his re-election drive.
Earlier on Friday, responding to a disappointing jobs report that drove down stock markets, he also pointed to high gasoline prices and Europe’s brewing economic crisis as factors getting in the way of recovery.
“The economy is growing again but it’s not growing as fast as we want it to grow,” Obama told workers and supporters at a Honeywell factory. “Just like at this time last year, our economy is still facing some serious headwinds.”
The Labor Department report showed the U.S. jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April, with employers adding a less-than-expected 69,000 jobs in the month.
Obama’s Republican rival in the November election, former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive Mitt Romney, called the latest job numbers “dismal” and said the uptick in unemployment proved Obama’s economic policies were failing.
The president, who travels to Chicago later on Friday for more re-election fundraisers, said in his speech at Honeywell that lawmakers should put politics aside and pass his “to-do list” of legislative steps to spur growth this election year.
“My message to Congress is: now is not the time to play politics. Now is not the time to sit on your hands. The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is,” Obama told the fired-up crowd.
“The economy still isn’t where it needs to be. There are steps that could make a difference right now, steps that could also serve as a buffer in case the situation in Europe gets any worse,” he said.
The president said his proposals - including tax credits for small businesses and federal aid to help states prevent teacher, firefighter and other layoffs - could help foster broad growth.
He also stressed the need to help veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan find their feet.
“I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home,” he said, to loud applause. “If we’re going to serve our veterans as well as they serve us, we’ve got to do it well.”
The Obama administration has been focused on improving the care and services veterans receive once home, offering employers incentives to hire former service members and recognize their military training as medics and in other professions.
Veterans and military families make up an important voting bloc in electoral battleground states such as Virginia, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. Obama carried Minnesota by a solid 10 percent in 2008 and is leading Romney by a similar margin so far, according to several recent state polls.
Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis and Caren Bohan; Editing by Jackie Frank and Bill Trott