updated 9/9/2011 2:17:59 PM ET 2011-09-09T18:17:59

His sleeves rolled up and his finger stabbing the air, President Barack Obama pitched his newly unveiled jobs plan with campaign-style fervor Friday, urging Americans to pressure their lawmakers to pass his $447 billion initiative. "We're tougher than these times," he declared. "We are bigger than the smallness of our politics."

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Venturing out of Washington to promote his initiative, Obama's first stop after addressing a joint session of Congress Thursday was on the home turf of one of his top Republican antagonists. Speaking at the University of Richmond, in the district represented by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Obama made a full-throated appeal for public support, punctuating his remarks with a sharp refrain: "Pass this bill!"

How would you rate President Obama's speech?

"It will jump start an economy that has stalled," Obama said, conceding that a nation stuck at 9.1 percent unemployment is no longer in recovery.

More than 8,000 people packed an arena on the campus for an assembly that had all the feel of a political rally. The largely supportive crowd cheered enthusiastically as Obama outlined details of his jobs plan and broke into chants of "USA!" when the president ensured that America can compete with growing global powerhouses like China.

Obama to Congress: Pass this bill

It was the first of many expected efforts by the president to rally public support for his program. Next week he plans to go to Columbus, Ohio, a city represented by Republican congressmen and a state that is home to House Speaker John Boehner.

The White House said the choice of destination had more to do with Richmond's proximity to Washington than taking a jab at the Virginia Republican, who has been one of the president's fiercest critics. Cantor did say Friday morning that he'd be willing to work with the White House on a job-creation plan so long as Obama doesn't pursue an "all-or-nothing" strategy.

After a summer of gridlock and intense partisan fighting over raising the nation's debt ceiling, Obama said he still held out hope that Republicans would rally behind his proposals and applauded the compromising tone set recently by Boehner and Cantor.

"I know that folks sometimes think they've used up the benefit of the doubt but I'm an eternal optimist, I'm an optimistic person," he said. "I believe if you just stay at it long enough, after they've exhausted all the other options, folks do the right thing."

Video: Obama calls on Congress to pass jobs bill (on this page)

Cantor planned to hold his own event in Richmond later Friday, speaking about his party's plans for job growth at a local business.

The plan the president laid out Thursday night in a nationally televised speech contains $253 billion in tax cuts and $194 billion in new spending. It would increase and extend a Social Security payroll tax cut for workers. It also provides a tax cut to employers. Most of Obama's proposals stand little chance of being implemented without the backing of congressional Republicans.

Still, eager to apply pressure on Republicans and make a case for the plan, the White House distributed analyses by outside economists that estimated the plan could create up to 1.9 million jobs. These economists cautioned, however, that the effects would be temporary and that the long-term impact of the plan would depend on the ability of the economy to build momentum and sustain growth on its own.

The White House communications team went into overdrive in the hours after the speech, sending out dozens of emails from lawmakers and organizations offering their support for the president's speech. Nearly all were from lawmakers in the president's own party or organizations that traditionally support Democrats.

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Video: The day after his speech, Obama selling jobs plan

  1. Closed captioning of: The day after his speech, Obama selling jobs plan

    >>> >>> leaning hard on congress last night to pass it, today we got on the road to take his case to the american people . our chief white house correspondent chuck todd with us with more tonight. chuck, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. well in that fiery speech last night the president admonished congress not to play politics with the jobs issue. today we went in politics for the jobs bill he unveiled last night.

    >> hello, richmond!

    >> reporter: president obama took his message to the swing state of virginia.

    >> i know you folks are as frustrated as i am about the economy. pass this bill.

    >> reporter: sounding like candidate obama, he urged richmond to pressure congress.

    >> i want you to call, i want you to tweet, i want you to fax. i want you to visit, i want you to face book , send a carrier pigeon .

    >> reporter: while the white house tried to play down any -- his speech last night was peppered with more geographic coincidence.

    >> there's a bridge that needs repair between ohio and kentucky, on one of the busiest trucking routes in north america . the public transit project in houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.

    >> reporter: ohio is the home of speaker john boehner , kentucky the home of senate republican leader mitch mcconnell and texas the home of presidential front-runner rick perry . as well as dispatching vice president biden to both national tv and local radio in ohio and pennsylvania to sell the plan. as for the republicans, the campaign arms of the party spent most of the stay frying to brand the president's plan with the s-word, stimulus, a word the president avoided thursday night. but the elected republican leaders struck a more conciliatory tone.

    >> i think there's areas that have room for agreement, but i object to the all or nothing message that the president is delivering.

    >> reporter: now the white house said it will send the $450 billion jobs package officially to congress next week and it will also include the president's idea on how to pay for it and, brian, that's when the real fire works are going to start.

    >> chuck todd from the white house , we'll be down there this weekend. in fact a program note , i'll have an exclusive interview with president obama on this jobs situation and the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that will air sunday and monday evenings here on nbc nightly news.


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