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In Nebraska, Obama throws a few more jabs at Trump, Cruz

President Obama delivers remarks at University of Nebraska Omaha arena, in Omaha, Nebraska, January 13, 2016.

REUTERS

Continuing the dialogue he began a night earlier in his State of the Union addressState of the Union address, President Obama on Wednesday urged Americans to rise above divisive politics. Without explicitly naming any other politicians, the president chastised conservatives like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for their over-the-top rhetoric.

Speaking at the University of Nebraska in Ohama, Mr. Obama railed against candidates "peddling this fiction" that America is getting weaker and that the solution is "looking meaner, talking tougher, carpet bombing wherever we want."

"That's just hot air, it's bluster. It's not serious," Mr. Obama said to the friendly crowd of students. "There's another word for it, that starts with a 'B,'" he said with a chuckle. "It's baloney."

The president seemed to referencing the instances in which Cruz has said that if elected presidenet, he would "carpet bomb" ISIS.

Later, repeating a refrain from his speech Tuesday night, the president said, "When politicians insult Muslims, including Muslim-Americans, including Muslim-Americans in uniform fighting on our behalf, when a mosque is vandalized or a kid is bullied, that doesn't make us safer."

The president was clearly referencing Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.

Mr. Obama said the ideas GOP candidates are emphasizing - that America is in decline and everything is scary - isn't the attitude that helped America overcome numerous challenges throughout its history.

"That's not the spirit that brought America so far," he said. "That's not how we traveled so far. And it's not what I see every day."

He said America is experiencing "extraordinary change, and that's always a little bit unsettling." But he urged the audience to reject the vision of America that he says Republicans want them to see.

"Do we respond to these changes with fear and do we turn on each other, or do we face the future with confidence in who we are and what we stand for?" he said, offering a condensed version of the nearly hourlong speech he delivered to a joint session of Congress and the nation Tuesday night.

Mr. Obama arrived in Republican-leaning Nebraska the day after saying in the State of the Union that one regret of his presidency is that the level of rancor and suspicion between Republicans and Democrats had worsened. He said in the speech that he would try to do better to bridge the divide.

He opened his two-day trip in the living room of Lisa Martin, a high school English teacher and mother of a 1-year-old son. She wrote to him a year ago to express concern about the America her son will grow up in.

The White House said Mr. Obama was visiting Nebraska and Louisiana because the states are good illustrations of how his policies are helping people. Unemployment in both states has fallen significantly since he took office and more than 2.5 million residents have gained coverage under his health care law, which the Republican presidential candidates unanimously oppose and have voted to repeal if elected.