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Obama marks stimulus plan milestone

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Obama speaks on the economy in Columbus, Ohio, on June 18.
President Obama speaks on the economy in Columbus, Ohio, on June 18.
  • Obama travels to Ohio to draw attention to 10,000th road project funded by stimulus plan
  • Project is expected to create 300 construction jobs
  • Trip is Obama's eighth to Ohio since taking office
  • Ohio is a key political swing state

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama traveled to Columbus, Ohio, on Friday to mark the groundbreaking of what the administration is touting as the 10,000th road project to be funded by the politically controversial $862 billion economic stimulus plan.

The trip was part of the launch of the White House's "Recovery Summer," a six-week push to highlight what the administration says will be a summer and fall of job creation fueled by a new surge in federal stimulus spending.

Obama visited a project in downtown Columbus expected to create more than 300 construction jobs while contributing "to the broader economic development effort underway in the area," according to the White House.

"These projects haven't just improved communities," Obama said. "They've put thousands of construction crews ... to work."

The project is a good example of the purpose of the stimulus plan, which is "not just to jumpstart the economy ... but to make the investments that will spur growth and spread prosperity and pay dividends to our communities for generations to come."

The trip marked Obama's eighth visit to the politically critical swing state since assuming the presidency a year and a half ago. Obama last visited Ohio on May 18 -- a trip also used to defend the stimulus plan.

The stimulus, which is formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was designed to boost the country's economy by increasing federal government spending and cutting taxes. Critics have repeatedly characterized the plan as a budget-busting boondoggle that failed to sufficiently reduce unemployment.

No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate voted for the bill. The measure was initially believed to have a price tag of $787 billion, but earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office increased its forecast for how much the stimulus will add to the nation's deficit, raising its estimate by $75 billion.

While job creation is a top issue across the country, it's especially important in Ohio, where the most recent data put the state unemployment level at 10.9 percent.

Ohio is a crucial state in presidential elections. Obama won Ohio by 5 points over Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election. The most recent polls in Ohio indicate that Obama's approval rating on the job he's doing as president stands around 45 percent.

The state also has some high-profile contests in this November's midterm elections, including governor and senator. In the gubernatorial contest, incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland faces a tough re-election battle against his Republican challenger, former Rep. John Kasich.

The Republicans are hoping to hold on to the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich. Surveys suggest a close race between the GOP nominee, former Rep. and Bush administration budget director Rob Portman, and the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.

Republicans note that Fisher didn't team up with the president the last two times Obama was in Ohio. Both Fisher and Strickland were scheduled to appear at Friday's event.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Xuan Thai contributed to this report