Obama Spends Labor Day With Ohio Union Workers

President Obama spent the day campaigning in Ohio and visiting Hurricane Isaac-ravaged areas in Louisiana. Scott Horsley joins Melissa Block to talk about the president's message.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. For President Obama, this Labor Day brought a mix of campaigning and official business. This evening, the president was in Louisiana where he toured some of the flood damage caused by Hurricane Isaac and promised federal help for the storm's victims.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I pledged to these folks is we're going to make sure that at the federal level, we are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here, what can we do to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

BLOCK: NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. Scott, what did Mr. Obama see there in Louisiana?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, the president just toured the Ridgewood Subdivision in St. John the Baptist Parish, which suffered some heavy flood damage as a result of Hurricane Isaac. The water is mostly gone now, but what is left is a mess. The president walked along a residential street where people have been ripping out drywall, wet furniture, soaked carpeting and piling it in their front yards. But a lot of the furniture has signs on it saying don't take.

Nobody is walking away from St. John's Parish after the storm. And Mr. Obama commented that this is not the first time we've been reminded of the resiliency of the people who live here along the Gulf Coast.

BLOCK: And the storm visit to Louisiana, Scott, forced the president to cancel one of two Labor Day rallies he had planned for Ohio today, not the first time that's happened.

HORSLEY: No. He's been having to juggle politics and his official business ever since Isaac was churning away out in the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, before leaving on a tour of college campuses, he had a conference call with governors from along the Gulf Coast region. There was one point when he was getting a briefing from his National Security team even as he was traveling from one campaign rally to another. The fact is hurricanes have no respect for the political calendar. And I guess politics has no respect for disaster relief either.

BLOCK: Well, President Obama did have another rally in Ohio today. This one, in Toledo, and it sounds like he was a boisterous President Obama addressing union members there.

HORSLEY: It was a very upbeat rally. Toledo, of course, is a big auto manufacturing city. The president had breakfast this morning with three autoworkers, two of whom were out of work for a period a few years ago when Chrysler was going through its bankruptcy. Those workers and a lot more are now back on the job. And Mr. Obama said the government's auto bailout deserves some credit for Iowa's economic turnaround with an unemployment rate now well below the national average.

OBAMA: I stood with American workers. I stood with American manufacturing. I believed in you. I bet on you. I'll make that bet any day of the week. And because of that bet, three years later, that bet is paying off for America.

HORSLEY: Now, there has been some pushback from Republicans. Ohio's governor has argued that autos are a relatively small part of that state's economic recovery. But certainly, for the UAW members who are at the president's rally today, they're grateful.

BLOCK: And, Scott, it sounds as if the president had some fun with a comment that Mitt Romney made when he visited Ohio last week.

HORSLEY: Yes. After the Republican convention wrapped up last week, Romney made a trip to Ohio and said that we've had a losing economic season, and it's time that America gets a new coach. Well, Mr. Obama saw the sports metaphor and raised today, he said that Romney's playbook is no good. On first down, the Republicans would hike costs for the middle class or cutting taxes for the wealthy. And later, Romney would throw a Hail Mary by making big changes to Medicare. So it sounds as if the president and his speechwriters spent a lot of time watching college football this week, and maybe a little too much.

BLOCK: OK, Scott. Thanks so much.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Scott Horsley traveling with President Obama in Louisiana.

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