Obama pitches aid plan for small businesses

(AP) - President Barack Obama unleashedbare-knuckled criticism against opposition Republicans on Tuesday,using some of his toughest language yet to paint them as electoralopportunists willing to switch positions at will to score pointswith voters.

The president's fellow Democrats have been pleading with him, asde facto leader of his party, to get tougher on Republicans leadinginto this fall's midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections.Those calls increased with the Democrats' stunning loss two weeksago of a Senate seat in Massachusetts, seen as an indictment ofDemocratic leadership in Washington and a potential bellwether forthe party in the voting later this year.

Obama answered those calls in New Hampshire, where two Houseseats and a Senate seat are in play in November. The state alsofigures prominently in presidential elections because of itsfirst-in-the-nation primary and its tradition of involved, informedresidents.

Obama's message of the day was a proposal highlighted in hisState of the Union address last week: funneling $30 billion tolocal banks so they can lend small businesses money they need togrow their enterprises and create jobs.

He toured a business that makes energy efficient light bulbs andheld his second town hall in six days, a format that allows him toshow engagement with the public and counter a sense of"remoteness," as he has put it, that people have had with hispolicy agenda.

"Jobs will be our No. 1 focus in 2010," he told the estimated1,600 people in attendance in opening remarks, before taking ahandful of questions. "And we're going to start where most newjobs do - with small businesses. These are companies that begin inbasements and garages when an entrepreneur takes a chance on hisdream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss."

The $30 billion in loan financing would come from money repaidby big banks that got help from the $700 billion Troubled AssetRelief Program, the vastly unpopular bailout for those on WallStreet whose actions led to the economic downturn. A refinedversion of a plan the administration first announced in October,that $30 billion would be used to create the Small Business LendingFund, separate and distinct from TARP.

To watch the president's town meeting in its entirety, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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