"It's not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing," Obama said of his initiatives. "Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead."

His last election behind him, Obama now hopes that the prospects for enacting his sweeping second-term agenda could be boosted if he can lock in support from the same centrist voters whose backing he eagerly sought during the re-election campaign. But with most lawmakers hailing from safe districts, even a wave of popular support might not be enough for Obama to win over many congressional Republicans.

Wednesday's trip to North Carolina brought Obama back to a competitive state where he campaigned heavily, but lost. The visit had all the trapping of a campaign-style rally â¿¿ barricades, platforms and professional lights, and patriotic music drowning out the cheers of a few hundred people who gathered at the factory to hear him speak.

On Thursday, Obama will seek support for his proposals in Georgia, a conservative-leaning state, before making his case on more familiar terrain Friday with a visit to Chicago â¿¿ his hometown.

Republicans have already made clear that the president's renewed emphasis on jobs and the economy may not win over their support.

"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Wednesday morning. "At a time when the American people are still asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?' Why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?"

Obama is asking Congress for $1 billion to create a network of "manufacturing innovation institutes" â¿¿ partnerships among the private sector, the federal government and colleges. He's also advocating for an end to tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, tougher enforcement of trade laws and new steps to open markets in Europe and Asia.

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