President Barack Obama attacked Republicans blocking his jobs bill, as deepening political vitriol over the quickening 2012 election campaign flared tempers in polarized Washington.
A day after admitting he was an "underdog" in his reelection bid, Obama headed to the Republican heartland of Texas, also home to well-heeled Democrats, to raise campaign cash and castigate his foes in Congress.
Obama lashed out at Eric Cantor, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, who Monday declared the president's $447 billion jobs bill effectively dead, though said some pieces could pass as stand alone measures.
The president, in feisty mood, dug up a 26-year-old quote on raising taxes on millionaires from conservative icon and former president Ronald Reagan to rebut Republican claims his tax hikes for the rich smacked of class warfare.
"At least put this jobs bill up for a vote, so the entire country knows where members of Congress stand," Obama said in Mesquite, Texas, in the latest swing of his countrywide campaign swing.
"I'd like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn't believe in," Obama said.
"Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you'd rather defend tax breaks for folks who don't need it, for millionaires rather than tax cuts for the middle-class."
The White House says the mixture of payroll tax cut extensions and infrastructure spending is the best way to revive robust economic growth, but Republicans say it is another attempt at stimulus spending which will not work.
In Washington, Cantor's office argued that given political realities, with Republicans in control of the House and with a significant minority in the Senate, Obama should not expect his legislation to pass in its entirety.
"President Obama needs to understand that his 'my way or the highway' approach simply isn't going to work... especially in light of his abysmal record on jobs," said Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring.
Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell tried to force a vote on the jobs bill in the Senate, which would likely have resulted in an embarrassing defeat, with Democratic votes not yet lined up.
"The president wants people to stand up and be counted, and I couldn't agree more. Let's go ahead and show that the votes aren't there for this bill," McConnell said.
Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, blocked the move, and the White House slammed McConnell for what it branded a political "stunt."
Obama spokesman Jay Carney dismissed McConnell, one of Washington's most resourceful powerbrokers, as a man "who has on the record stated that his number one priority as the Republican leader in the Senate is not the economy, not jobs, but to defeat President Obama."
The president headed west after new polls revealed the tough electoral environment he faces as he fires up his reelection effort.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll put his approval rating at 42 percent, a new low, and his disapproval rating at 54 percent, a new high.
Only 37 percent of those asked said they expect Obama to win reelection, a statistic pollsters said was worrying as expectations can drive grassroots enthusiasm for a candidate.
The numbers reflected deep public pessimism over the economy and put into context Obama's downbeat comments on his own prospects for 2012 on Monday, which may have been a calculated attempt to lower expectations.
"I don't mind, I am used to being an underdog," he said in an interview with Yahoo.com and ABC News.
Obama also conceded that Americans did not feel "better off" than they did four years ago, as he faced a famous question posed by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 which helped snuff out Democrat Jimmy Carter's presidency.
In another echo of Reagan, Obama touted the former president's words in 1985 in favor of closing tax loopholes which allowed a millionaire to pay "nothing" in taxes while a bus driver paid 10 percent of his salary.
"I don't remember Republicans accusing Ronald Reagan of being a socialist or engaging in class warfare," Obama said.
Obama has proposed cutting the deficit by allowing tax cuts passed by ex-president George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 to expire for individuals earning $200,000 and households earning $250,000 a year.