SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
For President Obama, the troop withdrawals fulfills a campaign pledge he made more than four years ago - to bring the Iraq war to an end. Opposition to that war helped launch Obama on his path to the White House, but whether he stays there is likely to depend more on how voters think he's handling the economy at home. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Ending the Iraq war is an important milestone for the country, and the commander-in-chief. And this week also saw a definitive end to Moammar Gadhafi's rule in Libya. But even as he announced the troop withdrawal from Iraq Friday, Mr. Obama acknowledged the U.S. now faces a bigger challenge: creating opportunity and jobs in this country.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: After a decade of war, the nation that we need to build - and the nation that we will build - is our own, an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe.
HORSLEY: The president has been pushing Congress to approve a combination of tax cuts and new government spending designed to boost the economy and lower the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Twice in the last two weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked all or part of the president's plan. On a bus tour of Virginia and North Carolina this past week, Obama vowed to keep trying.
OBAMA: And if they vote against these proposals, if they say no to steps we know that will put people back to work right now, they're not going to have to answer to me, they're going to have to answer to you.
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama was Fire Station No. 9 in North Chesterfield, Virginia. That's in a congressional district represented by House Republican Leader, Eric Cantor.
OBAMA: A number of people have been asking during the course of this road trip, why have you been visiting some of the most Republican parts of North Carolina and Virginia? And what I've had to remind them is that I'm not the Democratic president. I'm not the Republican president. I'm the president of the United States of America...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: ...and I don't care what party you belong to, we're all Americans, and we're all in this together.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")
HORSLEY: Having enjoyed the high school bands and barbecue of the South, Mr. Obama heads this coming week to the purple mountain majesty of Colorado and the desert sunshine of Nevada where he'll continue to promote his jobs plan. Colorado and Nevada, like North Carolina and Virginia, have often gone Republican in past presidential contests. But Mr. Obama won all four in 2008. The president's re-election campaign is trying to stay competitive in as many states as possible, so his chances aren't limited to winning Florida and Ohio.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained this week that Mr. Obama's effort to promote his jobs plan from sea to shining sea is little more than political theater.
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Let's park the campaign bus, put away the talking points, and do something to address the jobs crisis. The American people want action. The election's 13 months away. Why don't we do what we were elected to do?
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama celebrated a rare example of bipartisan cooperation yesterday, when he signed three new trade agreements, with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. The trade deals passed Congress with strong Republican backing. Mr. Obama told supporters in Asheville, North Carolina this week he's eager to cooperate with the GOP, whenever possible.
OBAMA: In fact some of you have been mad at me for trying too hard to cooperate with them, haven't you?
OBAMA: I get some of your letters. And your emails. And you're all like, well, why are you cooperating with them all the time? Because it can't be all about politics. Sometimes we've got to try to actually get something done.
HORSLEY: The White House expects another Senate vote on the public works component to the president's jobs plan when lawmakers return from their recess next month. There's no sign, though, of a break in the Republican opposition. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.