For Obama, it's still the economy

Story highlights

  • Obama touts manufacturing gains at a steel plant in Indiana
  • Democrats hope to drive economic message ahead of midterms
President Barack Obama brought his midterm economic message -- that the economy is better but not better enough -- to a steel plant here Friday, noting a strong jobs report and taking partial credit for the nation's economic recovery.
"This progress that we've been making -- it's been hard," he said at the Millennium Steel plant in Princeton, which provides a nearby Toyota factory with parts. "It goes in fits and starts. It's not always been perfectly smooth or as fast as we want, but it is real, and it is steady, and it is happening. And it's making a difference in economies all across the country."
The White House believes the nation's economic recovery could help propel Democrats to wins in November, though polls show Americans are still pessimistic about how far the nation has come since its recession-era depths.
While jobs have returned -- as evidenced by a report Friday showing the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest point since July 2008 -- many Americans are still struggling to find full-time work or positions that pay pre-recession wages.
"There is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now," Obama said Friday. "But as we all know there there are still challenges."
That's the message Obama and fellow Democrats plan to sell to voters in the month left before midterm elections, though Obama himself has yet to campaign for a candidate running in November.
Even when he visits states with competitive races, Democrats on the ballot have been reluctant to appear at official events with Obama.
Friday's event, in far southwestern Indiana, was covered heavily by media outlets from nearby Kentucky, where Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is battling Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. That race that's become a referendum of Obama's own policies, which McConnell has crusaded against on Capitol Hill.
The line likely to make the local newscasts: Obama's defense of new power plant rules that McConnell and other Republicans have lambasted as a "war of coal."
"The real war on coal is natural gas," Obama said, noting cheaper alternatives to coal had led to problems for the industry.
"Obviously causes some hardship in communities that traditionally relied on coal," he conceded, saying he was working to find ways to burn coal in ways that emit less pollution.