(CNN) -- President Barack Obama took his economic recovery message on the road Tuesday, telling a group of manufacturing workers in Iowa that while times remain tough, the administration has made a series of critical investments in the country's long-term development.
He also knocked Washington's harsh partisan environment, saying that lawmakers need to start working more as a team for the country's common good.
"I ran (for president in 2008) because I believe in an America where working families aren't just treading water, but where they're moving forward," the president said during a visit to an Alcoa plant in Bettendorf.
"I know these are difficult times," he conceded. "Sometimes it's tempting to turn cynical ... and start thinking that maybe our best days are behind us. But that's not the America I know."
"I want the cars and planes and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says 'Made in America,'" Obama said, rattling off a list of manufacturing initiatives launched since he took office.
Political considerations, however, appeared to loom large during the visit. The president alluded to Iowa's unique status as site of the nation's first presidential caucuses, noting recent visits to the state among declared and potential 2012 GOP presidential contenders.
"Iowa, you and I, we go a long way back," he said. "We've got some history, and together we're going to make some more history for years to come."
Obama scored a key political breakthrough in Iowa in the winter of 2008 when he defeated then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards in the state's Democratic caucuses. The win launched Obama on the road to the nomination and ultimately the White House.
Obama also carried Iowa in the November 2008 general election, beating Republican nominee Sen. John McCain there by nine points, 54% to 45%.
Iowa's 6% unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average.