Washington — President Barack Obama said Monday that he plans to "fight for every vote" in North Carolina to put the state in his column in the November election.
In an exclusive interview with WRAL News, Obama also defended his efforts to boost the U.S. economy and said that plans to cut defense spending wouldn't involve closing military bases.
North Carolina is among a handful of battleground states in the fall election, and Obama said he's not discouraged by polls that show Republican candidate Mitt Romney with a narrow lead in the Tar Heel State.
"There are a lot of ways that we can win, but I just like North Carolina, so I want to win North Carolina really badly," he said. "Obviously, if we win North Carolina, I think we're in good shape for a second term."
The president said he plans to focus on differentiating his philosophy from the approach backed by the former Massachusetts governor and congressional Republicans. He wants to emphasize investing in education, rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and developing a strategy to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"Ultimately, I want to work with everybody who believes that we're all in this together," he said. "I don't think that's a Democratic or Republican idea – that's an American idea. That's how we've grown in the past, and I think that's how we'll grow in the future."
One of he proposals is to revise the tax code to make it fairer for middle- and working-class Americans. On Monday, he called for a one-year extension of tax cuts first approved under President George W. Bush for people making less than $250,000 a year.
He said he would veto any attempt to extend the cuts to people above that income level, saying the country cannot afford the estimated $1 trillion price tag. Giving wealthy people a tax cut could harm efforts to boost small businesses with their own tax cut or to help students trying to repay their loans, he said.
"What I've been consistently focused on is how to we grow the middle class? How do we bring manufacturing back to the U.S.? How do we make sure that not only are good jobs created but that they also pay a decent wage so that people can support themselves?" he said.
North Carolina's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high – at 9.4 percent in May, it's the fourth-highest in the nation – but Obama said it takes time to repair the damage of the recession. He said his policies, including expanding worker training at community colleges and giving credits to companies that bring jobs back to the U.S., will help the economy over time.
Obama also said his administration will "keep the faith" with the men and women in the armed forces when it comes to cuts in defense spending, and he said he expects Congress will approve the plan.
"The Pentagon and secretary of defense have come up with a smart plan that slows the growth of the military but does so in a responsible way," he said. "It does not involve shutdowns of critical facilities in North Carolina."