President Obama touts auto bailout results in pitch to Midwestern voters

President Obama on Tuesday made his pitch to Midwestern voters who could turn against him in 2012, saying his administration’s policies helped save the region’s economy. 

Speaking at a Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Ind., on Tuesday afternoon, Obama said the 2009 auto bailouts helped save jobs across the Midwest. He cited the Kokomo plant as a prime success story and argued the nation was spared from the full-blown depression that might have resulted from the collapse of the auto industry.

{mosads}Obama said he “knew that the very survival of places like Kokomo were on the line” when he enacted the unpopular bailouts and said recent signs of progress for U.S. automakers vindicate his decision.

“So here is the lesson. Don’t bet against America. Don’t bet against the
American auto industry. Don’t bet against the American auto worker.
Don’t bet against American ingenuity. Don’t bet against us,” the president said. “Today we know that was the right decision.”

Obama’s defense of the auto bailout comes on the heels of General Motors’s IPO last week, which raised more than $20 billion for the company. 

The Obama administration has touted GM’s stock offering as vindication of the taxpayer-funded bailout of the automaker. The president on Thursday declared that the U.S. auto industry is “once again on the rise” and noted that “naysayers” were “prepared to throw in the towel and read the American auto industry last rites.”

Tuesday’s speech in Indiana signals that Obama is betting on an economic turnaround to help save him in states such as Indiana, which he is in grave danger of losing in his 2012 reelection bid. 

In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Indiana since 1964, giving him 11 electoral votes that usually fall in the Republican column. 

But losses for Democrats in Indiana during this year’s midterm elections indicate that the state’s voters could be ready to abandon the president in two years.

Centrist Rep. Baron Hill (D), who appeared with Obama at the Kokomo event, lost his seat to Republican Todd Young by 10 percentage points. Democrats also lost Democrat Brad Ellsworth’s seat by 20 points to Republican Larry Buschon.

Indiana Republicans now hold occupy six of the state’s nine congressional seats, both Senate seats, the governor’s office and both houses of the State Legislature. Obama squeaked by his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), in Indiana by only 26,000 votes in 2008. 

Before the event, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton downplayed any notion that speech was the first salvo of the 2012 campaign, saying that Kokomo was “a place the president visited during the campaign that’s seen particularly tough times with unemployment getting as high — getting over 20 percent.”

But Obama echoed part of his campaign stump speech on Tuesday, saying that his economic policies have put the country’s economy on the right path, touting the fact that Chrysler has decided to invest an additional $800 million in the parts plant and noted that the overall economy is growing at a faster rate than many had expected.

“Anybody who doesn’t believe in the Midwest, anyone who doesn’t believe in manufacturing, come to Kokomo,” Obama said. “We are moving in the right direction.”

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