By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.-Before an overflow crowd here, President Obama kicked off a five-city campaign swing through a state that could be pivotal to whether he wins a second term.
About 1,400 quickly filled up the Green Run High School gymnasium, and organizers had to jam another 700 spectators into the school cafeteria. Before making his stump speech, Obama popped into the overflow and stressed how important they were going to be to his chances.
"This is going to be a close one," said Obama, who in 2008 became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson to win Virginia. "We're going to have to work hard."
But as Obama began his campaign swing through a state that counts 900,000 defense-related jobs, Republicans were attempting to put the blame squarely on Obama's shoulders for billions in automatic defense cuts that are set to go into effect next year.
The debt limit law passed last year, which was struck between the White House and Republicans, set in motion nearly $500 billion in across-the-board defense cuts over 10 years starting 2013 if Congress fails to find savings elsewhere.
House Speaker John Boehner's office said Friday morning that the House next week will consider the Sequestration Transparency Act, which would require the White House to submit a plan to Congress detailing the Obama administration's plan for administering the military cuts.
"Pink slips are looming, Virginia will be reeling come January, and our Commander in Chief is eerily silent on this issue," said Scott Rigell, R-Va., whose district includes the Hampton Roads area. "That, in my opinion, is a breach of his duty as head of our armed forces."
In an open letter to the president published by the Virginian Pilot today, like GOP nominee argued the defense cuts will hit Virginia's military community hard.
"Your insistence on slashing our military to pay the tab for your irresponsible spending could see over 200,000 troops forced from service," Romney wrote. "It will shut the doors on factories and shipyards that support our warfighters, take a heavy toll on the guard and reserves, and potentially shutter Virginia military bases."
Speaking to reporters before the president's speech in Virginia Beach, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president's plan won't "undermine the economic strength of communities like those in southern Virginia that are heavily reliant on the defense industry."