UPDATE 2-After tough week, Obama tries to change the subject to jobs

Fri May 17, 2013 3:51pm EDT
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* Strategist Lehane: trip gets Obama "out of the bunker"

* Obama wants to cut red tape for big construction projects

* Trip could draw attention to Keystone XL pipeline delay

By Roberta Rampton and Mark Felsenthal

BALTIMORE, May 17 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday sought to turn the spotlight from controversies threatening to swamp his agenda back to his top priority - the economy - and announced he will try to cut in half the time it takes to get federal approval for large job-creating projects.

Obama traveled to Baltimore, a short helicopter ride from the White House, to talk about steps he is taking to streamline permits for infrastructure, early childhood education, and positive signs in the economy.

He did not mention the trio of storms that have beset his administration in the past week and that some believe could overrun his second-term agenda.

Speaking in front of heavy equipment at Ellicott Dredges, a company that helped dredge the Panama Canal over 100 years ago, Obama took a swipe at the distractions of Washington politics.

"I know it can seem frustrating sometimes when it seems like Washington's priorities aren't the same as your priorities," Obama said in his upbeat speech.   Continued...