NPR logo Obama's Kokomo Trip: Foretaste Of The 2012 Campaign

Obama's Kokomo Trip: Foretaste Of The 2012 Campaign

President Obama shook plenty of hands during his trip to Kokomo, IN, Nov. 23, 2010. Don Gonyea/NPR hide caption

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Don Gonyea/NPR

Aboard Air Force One, flying to Indiana Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton was asked by reporters if the pre-Thanksgiving trip was the kickoff of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

He said no.

The question was asked half in jest. But over the course of the next two hours it felt just like a campaign swing.

Even before we arrived at a Chrysler transmission plant to watch the president tout the auto industry revival, we stopped at a firehouse to pose in front of a new truck.

President Obama and Vice President Biden have lunch with firefighters in Kokomo, Indiana, Nov. 23, 2010. Don Gonyea/NPR hide caption

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Don Gonyea/NPR

The visit was in part to meet with firefighters who'd been laid off  but back on the job, thanks to a grant from FEMA.

Then Obama had lunch with Biden and more firefighters.

Next came an unplanned stop on the street where the president leaped from his limo to greet elementary school kids, hundreds of them. They had lined the street to watch his motorcade drive past. The screams were excited, loud and lasting.

Eventually, we reached the auto factory for a plant tour with lots of dignitaries. Obama, in a white shirt, was jacket-less and wore protective goggles. Biden, also wearing goggles, kept his jacket on.

When the time for speeches arrived, Biden spoke first, then Obama who got a standing ovation when he called the plant a "shining example" of the auto recovery.

Chrysler's chairman was on hand to tell the president of another $800 million his company was investing in Kokomo.

On the way to the airport, the president, vice president and traveling pool of journalists stopped at the Gingerbread House Bakery in Kokomo.

It just so happened the shop got an Small Business Administration loan. The president bought donuts, pumpkin rills and apple fritters for aides and the accompanying journalists.

The vice president placed his own order and worried aloud that the pumpkin rolls would run out.

All I can say is it felt a lot like a campaign, even if 2012 still seems far away.