Needling his top Republican adversaries on their own turf, President Obama stood in the shadow of an outdated and heavily used Ohio River bridge Thursday and called his rivals by name to demand action on his $447 billion jobs bill.
At a bridge linking House Speaker John A. Boehner's home state of Ohio with Kentucky, the home of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Obama struck a cheeky tone that underscored the politics of the moment.
"Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge," he declared. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill."
The president's incursion into northern Kentucky and southern Ohio is one of his most direct and defiant challenges to leaders of the opposition party. And it illustrated a desire by the president's advisers to distinguish him from Republicans and to get them to share some of the blame for the struggling economy.
Rejected as pure politics by Boehner and McConnell, Obama's in-your-face approach showed no sign of changing any minds in Congress.
It also was a shift from his outreach to Boehner this summer, when the two men tried to work out a deal to extend the nation's borrowing authority and cut long-term deficits.
Then, the president took Boehner golfing. Now, he's taking him to task.
"Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell -- those are the two most powerful Republicans in government," Obama said. "They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help pass this jobs bills."
Obama said his legislation would put construction workers back to work around the country on projects like the Brent Spence Bridge, but the White House conceded that the choice of the aging span south of Cincinnati was symbolic. The bridge is scheduled to be repaired starting in 2015.
"We have never suggested that ground would be broken on this project immediately," press secretary Jay Carney said on Air Force One en route to Ohio, though he said the president's job bill could speed up that timeline.
"I would suggest, Mr. President, that you think about ways to actually help the people of Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a backdrop for making a political point," McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday morning.