By ERICA WERNER
BETTENDORF, Iowa – President Barack Obama will tout manufacturing as a key to America’s economic success during a trip to Iowa, as he seeks to counter criticism of his policies by Republican presidential candidates who have descended on the state.
The trip Tuesday is Obama’s first to Iowa since announcing his re-election campaign earlier this year. The White House insists the stop will be about the economy, not politics, though staffers are emphasizing Obama’s ties with the state that jump-started his presidential bid with a victory in the 2008 caucuses.
“Iowa is clearly a special place for the president,” White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said. “He spent a significant amount of time there and really got to know a lot of people across the state when he was running.
Obama planned to spend only about two hours in Iowa. His first stop was Ross’ 24-Hour Restaurant, a local diner in the town of Bettendorf. 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 because he said he’s going to need one after,” quipped Cynthia Freidhof, the daughter of the restaurant’s founder.
From there, Obama was headed to Alcoa Davenport Works, an aluminum-producing factory where he was scheduled to speak with workers. The White House says the company’s products are exported around the world, and are produced by highly skilled workers who earn wages higher than the national average.
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 Friday.
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.
“We have not run out of stuff to make. We’ve just got to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector so that it leads the world the way it always has, from paper and steel and cars to new products we haven’t even dreamed up yet,” Obama said Friday during a stop in Pittsburgh.
In Iowa, the first state in the nation to have its say in the race for the GOP nomination, Obama’s message will come up against criticism from Republican presidential candidates, who say his economic policies have failed to put the country on path toward growth and prosperity.
“Mr. President, your policies haven’t worked. Spending our way out of this recession hasn’t worked,” Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., said Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, where she officially announced her run for the White House.
The chairman of the Iowa Republican party said Tuesday 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, will be in Iowa on Tuesday for the screening of a documentary about her.
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