Obama Heads to Ohio on Economic PR Mission: Says Things Are Getting

May 18, 2010 - 4:46 AM
President Barack Obama is heading to swing state Ohio to promote his economic policies as he tries to convince voters that times are getting better even while unemployment remains stubbornly high.
Washington (AP) - President Barack Obama is heading to swing state Ohio to promote his economic policies as he tries to convince voters that times are getting better even while unemployment remains stubbornly high.
 
Obama on Tuesday will visit V&M STAR, a pipe and tubing manufacturer in Youngstown that benefited from spending in the economic recovery act passed last year. It's the latest stop on his White House to Main Street tour of towns and businesses, often in economically depressed regions.
 
The president was in Buffalo, N.Y., last week, and before that made stops in Allentown, Pa., Charlotte, N.C., Savannah, Ga., and Quincy, Ill.
 
His message has been consistent: The economy is beginning to recover thanks in part to his administration's policies, many of them unpopular with voters. However, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday, "I think the president was pretty clear the other day that if you want a job and don't have one, then there's still a recession going."
 
It's not clear that Obama's tour is doing much to turn around public sentiment. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Saturday found that just 35 percent of respondents said the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest measured by the AP-GfK survey since a week before Obama took office in January 2009. His approval rating remains at 49 percent, as low as it's been since he become president.
 
Tuesday may bring a referendum on incumbent Democrats -- and to a degree the president -- with Obama-backed Democratic senators in Pennsylvania and Arkansas facing strong challengers from the left. In a special House race in southwestern Pennsylvania that's attracting high spending from the national political parties, a Republican and Democrat are facing off to see who will serve out the final few months in the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha.
 
The outcomes could be bellwethers for November's crucial midterm elections.
 
Gibbs contended that stronger economic growth, which he said was partly attributable to the recovery act, has people feeling more optimistic. Reports out at the end of the last week showed the economy is being boosted by higher retail sales, stronger factory output and a rise in companies' stockpiles, pointing to modest but steady improvement after the worst recession in decades. Yet the recovery needs stronger job creation, and it remains under pressure from fears that Europe's debt crisis could slow the U.S. economy.
 
The unemployment rate stands at about 9.9 percent nationwide, but it's closer to 11 percent in Ohio, where Obama beat Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 by 51 percent to 47 percent.