Obama Boards A Bus To Promote His Economic Vision

President Obama's campaign bus rolls from Ohio into Pennsylvania Friday. He is trying to make the case that the U.S. economy is slowly but surely on the mend. While touring Ohio's manufacturing belt Thursday, he highlighted the rebound of the auto industry.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer, with Steve Inskeep. President Obama is in Ohio and Pennsylvania today, dealing with some unwelcome news. The jobs report for June out today has unemployment stuck at 8.2 percent. Here's a sharp reaction from the president's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY: There's a lot of misery in America today, and these number understate what people are feeling.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Obama is highlighting the rebound of the auto industry. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The Obama campaign calls this the Betting on America bus tour. But there's no guaranteed political jackpot. Even staunch supporters of the president say it's a tough hand he's had to play.

DEBBIE DALTON: I think he's doing the best job he can for us, considering all he has to fight against.

HORSLEY: Debbie Dalton, who attended an Obama rally in Maumee, Ohio yesterday, offers an equally qualified appraisal of her state's economy. Unemployment in Ohio is below the national average. But at 7.3 percent, it's still far too high.

DALTON: It's not nearly as bad as it was. It can get a whole lot better, though. I'm very glad, though, that he has saved the auto industry, especially since my husband is retired from there, because we probably would have lost our house otherwise.

HORSLEY: The turnaround in the auto industry is one of the genuine bright spots in the economy. The industry's added more than 230,000 workers since General Motors and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy. This week, the two automakers reported double-digit sales growth for the month of June. That's good news for Shawn Rhodes, who works at a GM foundry in Defiance, Ohio.

SHAWN RHODES: It's really helped a lot out. The place I work at, we were laying off. Now we're actually hiring. We've probably hired 200 people in the last three months. People are out buying again, feeling more comfortable with the economy. So everything's good so far, knock on wood.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama was quick to remind voters here that while he went out on a limb to support the auto industry, his Republican challenger Mitt Romney argued the government should stay out of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor Romney said we should just let Detroit go bankrupt. I refused to turn my back on communities like this one. I was betting on the American worker, and I was betting on American industry. And three years later, the American auto industry is coming roaring back.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "YOUR LOVE IS LIFTING ME HIGHER")

HORSLEY: As his customized bus rolled from west to east along Lake Erie, Mr. Obama stopped here and there for a cheeseburger, or some peaches, or a beer at Ziggy's Pub. There were no arena-sized rallies on this day, but smaller, folksier gatherings around park pavilions and flag-draped gazebos. The president spoke in unusually personal terms about the opportunities he and his family have enjoyed and the challenge of preserving those opportunities for today's middle class.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

OBAMA: And I know sometimes people feel like, yeah, you know, Obama, he's done some good things, but boy, things are still tough out there. Change hasn't happened fast enough. I understand that. I get frustrated, too. But what we - what's required are long-term solutions, not slick promises, not quick fixes.

HORSLEY: Republican critics argue Mr. Obama's had enough time to fix the economy. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other GOP surrogates shadowed the president throughout Ohio, holding their own campaign events in many of the same places he did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: This president's been bad for America. He's been bad for Ohio. Here in Ohio, over 40,000 fewer jobs than when he took office, average income gone down 3,000 dollars. The list goes on and on and on. But the bottom line is this: We've had enough of broken promises. You want good paying jobs in Ohio, you want a growing economy in America, we need to elect Mitt Romney.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama countered that Romney's plan for tax cuts and reduced regulation is the same economic blueprint followed by George W. Bush.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

OBAMA: We tried it before I came into office. Not only did it not work, it led to the worst financial crisis that we've had in our lifetime. Why would we want to go back to something that didn't work?

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama calls the November election a choice between two very different economic visions, telling voters they get to be the tie-breaker, and nowhere is breaking that tie more important than here in Ohio. Scott Horsley, NPR News, with the president in Akron.

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