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- iHaveNet.com: Politics
by Jules Witcover
Maybe it was a case of barring the barn door after the horse was stolen. But the sales team of Obama and Biden went to the heart of the Rust Belt the other day and made the kind of pitch that might have minimized the disaster their party suffered at the polls earlier this month.
The president and his sidekick made a rare dual appearance at a
Returning to Kokomo, where they campaigned in 2008, Obama and Biden cited the combination of federal stimulus money and production modifications urged on a cooperative industry as the engines of an economic turnaround at the
Aides noted a drop in the city's unemployment rate from 20 percent last year to a current 12 percent. That's still higher than the national average, but evidence that
The Democrats' failure during this fall's midterm congressional campaign to convince voters that the stimulus money was aiding economic recovery clearly contributed to the party's huge electoral setbacks, despite efforts by Obama and Biden to make the case.
The president particularly hammered away then by accentuating the negative, blaming his predecessor for the economic mess and repeatedly talking about the car the Republicans had "driven into a ditch" and then refused to help push out. This time in Kokomo, he skipped that version, instead focusing on the positive results he and Biden claimed for the recovery act.
The Obama-Biden visit came on the heels of
Biden kicked off the pitch with his customary folksy campaign cheerleading, reminding the autoworkers that his father was also in the business, though as a successful salesman in Delaware. The vice president lauded the improved American car, telling the crowd of his father's admonition to him as a youngster: "Joey, all they got to do is give me product ... I can sell it." And then to the Kokomo workers: "You're giving them the best product in the world again."
Obama, obviously amused at Biden's style that is a contrast to his own more earnest stump manner, told the crowd: "Joe is not only one of the best vice presidents in history. He's also one of the best introducers in history." He then picked up the same message, in his own fashion.
"There were those who were prepared to give up on Kokomo and our auto industry," he said. "We made the decision to stand with you because we had confidence in the American worker, more than anything. And today we know that was the right decision....
"Today each of the Big Three automakers has increased their market share -- each of them. For the first time in over a decade, Americans are buying a larger share of Chryslers, Fords and GM cars, and a smaller share of their foreign counterparts -- for the first time in decades.
"We're coming back. We're on the move. All three American companies are profitable, and they are growing. Some of you read last week, GM's stock offering exceeded expectations as investors expressed their confidence in a future that seemed so dim just 18 months ago. And as a result, the Treasury was able to sell half of its GM stock.
"So here's the lesson: Don't bet against America. Don't bet against the American auto industry. Don't bet against American ingenuity. Don't bet against the American worker. Don't bet against us."
The message was one that didn't resonate adequately on Election Day, and its future success or failure will depend on evidence that the Obama-Biden optimism is more than the mere cheerleading offered in the their return to Kokomo.
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