BETTENDORF, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday brought a made-in-America pitch to this politically vital state, saying innovation and adaptation will help the manufacturing sector and the entire U.S. economy rebound with more gusto. He admonished a divided Washington to stop bickering and rally together like a team.
Here in the home of the first presidential caucuses, Obama made a quick but unmistakable nod to his own re-election bid. Fondly recalling his win here in 2008, Obama said to Iowa: "We've got some history together. And together we're going to make some more history for years to come."
The president, under steady pressure to bolster a sluggish economy, is showering attention on manufacturing as an American story of adaptation. He chose the setting of Alcoa Davenport Works, an aluminum factory whose products are exported around the world and used for such high-tech applications as the wings for the presidential jet Air Force One.
The plant has re-hired the workers it laid off during the recent recession and is eying an expansion, said Obama, who pushed a broader theme of American resilience.
"You had to up your game," Obama said to the workers. "And that's what we've got to do as a country as a whole. I want the cars and planes and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says 'Made in America.'"
Obama's victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses catapulted his presidential campaign, and the state is now being flooded with Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination and criticizing his economic leadership.
The president said that the country has the workers, companies and industries to mount a stronger economic recovery: "We are still the United States of America."
The stop is part of Obama's effort to promote job creation in the midst of an economic slowdown that has reduced hiring and weakened his job approval standing with the public. After last month's weak unemployment report showed an uptick in the jobless rate to 9.1 percent, the White House is warily eyeing the release of more up-to-date numbers on July 8.
The White House sees a recovery in the U.S. manufacturing industry as one way to create jobs and stay competitive in the global marketplace. Last week, Obama announced a $500 million joint effort by industry, universities and the federal government to help reposition the United States as a leader in cutting-edge manufacturing.
Back in Washington, Obama is in a high-stakes stalemate with Republicans over a deal that could cut some $2 trillion from the nation's debt and perhaps clear the way for Congress to extend the nation's borrowing limit. The administration says that debt limit must be raised by Aug. 2 or the government will face a catastrophic default on its obligations.
Obama made no direct reference to that fight but called on the country and its leaders to start "thinking like a team, instead of turning on each other."
"I promise you," he said, "if you we continue to adapt and we continue to innovate and we work together to compete around the world, America will come back stronger than before."
The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party said it comes as no surprise that Obama showed up in the traditional political battleground.
"There's a famous political saying that 'no politician comes to Iowa by accident.' I'm sure part of this is a political calculation," Matt Strawn said.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has not said whether she will run for president, was in Iowa on Tuesday for the screening of a documentary about her.
Obama made time in Iowa to relax with the locals. His first stop was Ross' 24-Hour Restaurant, a Bettendorf diner. Among the president's orders was a "Magic Mountain," a house specialty that includes Texas toast and mounds of ground beef.
"I hope he brought his antacids," quipped Cynthia Freidhof, the daughter of the restaurant's founder.
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