[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/18/art.obama.0618u.gi.jpg caption ="President Obama on Friday will make his eighth trip to Ohio since assuming the presidency."]Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama heads back to Ohio Friday, his eighth trip to the politically important state since assuming the presidency a year and a half ago.
The mission for this latest visit is to help kick off what the White House calls "Recovery Summer," a six week long push to highlight what the administration says will be a summer and fall of job creation fueled by a surge in federal stimulus spending across the country. Obama travels to Columbus, Ohio, to mark the groundbreaking of what's touted as the 10,000 Recovery Act road project to get underway.
The president was last in Ohio on May 18, when he defended the federal stimulus and tore into political opponents for what he claimed is political hypocrisy and a defense of failed policies. Obama spoke at a steel pipe plant in Youngstown, Ohio that used funds from the Recovery Act to add more than 300 jobs.
Obama's first visit to Ohio as president, on March 6 of last year, was also to tout the stimulus. The president attended a police class graduation in Columbus that was made possible in part due to federal funding from the Recovery Act.
The stimulus, which is formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was designed to stimulate the country's economy by increasing federal government spending and cutting taxes at a total cost to the government of $862 billion.
No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate voted in favor of the bill. The stimulus was initially believed to have a price tag of $787 billion but earlier this year the Congressional Budget Office hiked its forecast for how much the stimulus will add to the nation's deficit, raising its estimate by $75 billion.
Obama returned on July 23 of last year to speak to voters at a townhall in Shaker Heights and made a third visit on September 7 to attend an AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, and returned a week later to speak about the economy at a GM plant in Lordstown.
In January, Obama met with voters at a community college in Elyria, Ohio, in the northeast part of the Buckeye State. The townhall meeting, which included workers and business owners, focused on putting more Americans back to work, and was part of what the administration calls the "White House to Main Street Tour."
In March this year, in a further push for congressional passage of his health care overhaul, the president spoke out on health insurance in Strongsville, outside of Cleveland.
While job creation is a top issue across the country, it's especially important in Ohio, where the most recent data put the state unemployment level at 10.9 percent.
Ohio is a crucial state in presidential elections. Obama won Ohio by 5 points over Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election. The most recent polls in Ohio indicate that Obama's approval rating on the job he's doing as president stands around 45 percent.
Ohio also has some high profile contests this November's midterm elections, including governor and senator. In the gubernatorial contest, incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland faces a tough re-election battle against his Republican challenger, former Rep. John Kasich.
The Republicans are hoping to hold on to the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich. Surveys suggest a close race between the GOP nominee, former Rep. and Bush administration budget director Rob Portman, and the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
Republicans noted that Fisher didn't team up with the president the last two times Obama was in Ohio. Both Fisher and Strickland are scheduled to appear at Friday's event.
–White House Producer White House Xuan Thai contributed to this story
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn