Obama kicks off bus tour of NC, VA in Asheville - FOX Carolina 21

Obama kicks off bus tour of NC, VA in Asheville

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President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd at the Asheville Regional Airport. (Oct. 17, 2011/FOX Carolina) President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd at the Asheville Regional Airport. (Oct. 17, 2011/FOX Carolina)
ASHEVILLE, NC (FOX Carolina) -

Hundreds of people packed an Asheville airport Monday morning to hear President Barack Obama speak as he kicked off his bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia.

Air Force One landed at the Asheville Regional Airport about 10:40 a.m.

After getting off the presidential airplane, Obama was greeted by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC. He then walked over to a waiting podium to speak to a crowd of hundreds that gathered during the early-morning hours.

"It's good to be back in Asheville, NC," Obama said. "I love Asheville. In fact, I think I should be on the tourism promotion bureau of Asheville."

The president quickly turned to his jobs plan, which was recently rejected by the Senate. He said he wants to take his message of putting Americans back to work on the road, so he can see how people are doing and find out in what direction they want the country to head.

"I'm going to be doing a little bit of talking, but mostly I'm going to be doing a whole lot of listening," Obama said.

The president said politicians in Washington have lost focus on what's important to many Americans. The crowd responded by shouting, "Jobs!" The president held his hand up to his ear in response, and the crowd once again shouted, "Jobs!"

Obama said thousands of construction workers in North Carolina who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed could be put back to work building highways, runways, repairing bridges and renovating schools. He said there is no reason the best highways and airports should be built in China.

"We should be building them right here in the United States of America," the president said.

Obama said independent economists have said his jobs bill would create nearly two million jobs. He said the politicians who rejected the plan will have some explaining to do.

"They're going to have to come down here and explain to working families why their taxes are going up, while the richest Americans and the largest corporations keep getting sweet deals in the tax code," Obama said.

The president ended his nearly 25-minute speech by calling on Americans to get to work.

"Let's show the world, once again, why the United States is the greatest country on Earth," Obama said.

The president stopped for lunch at Countryside Barbeque near Marion, NC. He enjoyed a small barbeque plate with sweet potato fries, green beans and hush puppies. While there, the president shook hands and talked with customers.

"I told him that I pray for him often, said Eastside Baptist Church Pastor Bob Ritter, who was at the restaurant. "He said thank you and that he prayed."

From Asheville, the president will travel to a high school in Millers Creek and spend the night in Greensboro. He will continue his tour through North Carolina and Virginia until he returns to Washington on Wednesday.

Both North Carolina and Virginia are considered crucial to Obama's re-election campaign.

Hundreds gather on Sunday for tickets to event

Although the event was free and open to the public, those wanting to attend were required to have a ticket. A long line of people formed at gate six of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center for hours Sunday, trying to grab one of those tickets.

Ashvillian, Kim Gillium, shook President Obama's hand when he toured through Western North Carolina during his first presidential campaign.

On Obama's second presidential campaign, Gillium said, "If he wins Asheville and surrounding areas, he'll take North Carolina."

Ron Scheinman is another supporter; he said, "I imagine he's coming here to excite the base and to get them warmed up for the coming election, and he needs that support because it seems like people are a little bit disappointed, a little bit tuning out."

Students from Mountain Sun Community School in Asheville picked up their tickets on Sunday. The fourth through sixth graders will see the president speak as a field trip Monday morning.

Obama supporter, Ronald Bryant, is looking forward to hearing Obama's plan, he said, "we didn't get in this mess overnight, so it's going to take a little longer than overnight to get out of it."

Obama no stranger to Asheville

Obama last visited Asheville during a vacation in April. He and the first lady stayed at the Grove Park Inn, ate at 12 Bones Smokehouse and took a stroll along the Blue Ridge Parkway during their trip.

When the president was leaving Asheville last year, a man from Ohio was arrested at the airport. He was accused of bringing a gun to the airport, and was charged with going armed in terror of the public.

In 2008, then-Sen. Obama campaigned in Asheville.

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