CINCINNATI -- Needling his top Republican adversaries on their own turf, President Barack Obama stood in the shadow of an outdated and heavily used Ohio River bridge Thursday and called his rivals out by name to demand action on his $447 billion jobs bill.
Making a point to choose a bridge linking House Speaker John Boehner's home state of Ohio with Kentucky, the home of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Obama struck a cheeky tone that underscored the politics of the moment.
"Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge," he declared. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill."
The president's incursion into southern Ohio and northern Kentucky is one of his most defiant challenges to leaders of the GOP. And it illustrated a desire by the president's advisers to distinguish him from Republicans and to get them to share some of the blame for the struggling economy.
Rejected as pure politics by Boehner and McConnell, the president's in-your-face approach showed no sign of changing any minds in Congress.
It also was a shift from the president's outreach to Boehner this summer, when the two men tried to work out a deal that would extend the nation's borrowing authority and cut long-term deficits as well.
Then, the president took Boehner golfing. Now, he's taking him to task.
"Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government," Obama said. "They can either kill this jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bills."
Obama said his legislation would put construction workers back to work around the country on projects like the Brent Spence Bridge, but the White House readily conceded that the choice of the aging span south of Cincinnati was symbolic. The bridge is scheduled to be repaired anyway starting in 2015.
"We have never suggested that ground would be broken on this project immediately," press secretary Jay Carney said, though he said the president's job bill could speed up that timeline.
By selecting Ohio, Obama also raised his profile in a politically important state that he won in 2008 but that George W. Bush won twice. The Cincinnati Enquirer greeted his visit with a downbeat front page headline: "Obama visit won't build new bridge."