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Obama Pushes Stimulus Plan In Florida


NPR's Mara Liasson went to the president's rally today.


U: Yes we can. Yes we can.

G: Mr. President, welcome to Fort Myers, Florida.


MARA LIASSON: It was a campaign-style rally with a twist. The president was introduced by Florida's governor, Republican Charlie Crist.

G: This issue of helping our country is about helping our country. This is not about partisan politics. This is about rising above that, helping America, and reigniting our economy.

LIASSON: Of course, Governor Crist doesn't have a vote on the stimulus plan and so far, only three members of his party in Congress have voted in favor of it. But Mr. Obama was happy to have the popular Florida governor's support as proof that he'd been able to create some bipartisanship.

P: Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party. And when the town is burning, you don't check party labels. Everybody needs to grab a hose.

LIASSON: The president will get his stimulus plan and today, his Treasury secretary announced new programs to shore up the nation's financial system. But here in Fort Myers, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, voters like Adam Palmer(ph) are interested in what the president would call the third leg of the stool: help for homeowners.

BLOCK: So many of the lenders these days are unwilling to discuss any possibility of doing a loan-modification program.

P: Right.

BLOCK: Unless you're currently in default. Subsequently, this is penalizing responsible Americans, who have lost all the equity in their property.

P: Right.

BLOCK: What could be done to change that?

LIASSON: The president said he'll be making an announcement in a few weeks on the administration's housing strategy. The question the administration is still wrestling with, Mr. Obama said, is how to design a system where the banks recognize it's in their interest to avoid foreclosures. Mr. Obama also took advantage of one of the privileges presidents have when traveling outside of Washington - disparaging Washington, even when their party controls everything in Washington.

P: Now, I'm not going to tell you that this plan is perfect. I mean, it was produced in Washington.



P: No plan is perfect. I also can't tell you with 100 percent certainty that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope.

LIASSON: The president isn't back on the campaign trail just to get Congress to vote for his stimulus plan. He also wants voters to stay supportive and forgiving while they're waiting for their lives to improve, which might take a very long time. In the end, Mr. Obama knows his political fortunes will rise or fall with the economy.

P: I expect to be judged by results. And there's no, you know, I'm not going to make any excuses. If stuff hasn't worked, and people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction, then you'll have a new president.

LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, with the president in Fort Myers, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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