KOKOMO, Ind. — President Obama promoted the revival of the U.S. auto industry Tuesday, taking his pitch to the heart of the Rust Belt where a bruising economy has taken its toll on Democrats.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden toured a rebounding Chrysler transmission plant in this hard-hit industrial city, holding it up as a symbol of the “hope and confidence” of a better economy even while millions are still unemployed and hurting.
“We’re coming back,” Obama said. “We’re on the move.”
The visit represents the White House’s new focus on showcasing the results behind his administration’s politically contentious economic stimulus and the bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors.
The economic message, however, was overshadowed by North Korea’s shelling Tuesday of a South Korean island, a provocation that further complicates Obama’s foreign policy challenges.
And in a sobering development that underscored the president’s economic difficulties, the Federal Reserve lowered its outlook for the economy through 2011, citing worse-than-expected growth.
Obama made sure to embrace a new Commerce Department report that the economy grew slightly faster last summer than first thought, benefiting from stronger spending by U.S. shoppers and improved overseas sales of U.S. goods. He called the news welcome and then promised, “We’re going to keep on making it grow faster.”
Obama went out of his way Tuesday to engage with the public.
At one point he stopped at a small bakery to order pumpkin rolls, apple fritters, cinnamon rolls and doughnuts. The White House says the husband-and-wife owners received a $140,000 loan from the economic stimulus to buy the former doughnut shop, which opened nearly a year ago.