Obama ‘farewell tour’ continues in Indiana

Published 9:01 PM EDT, Tue May 24, 2016
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam CNN —  

President Barack Obama is making another stop on his farewell tour, returning to Elkhart, Indiana – the site of his first trip in office – to tout the city’s economic recovery.

The White House said Obama would return on June 1 to hold a town hall, seven years after hosting a similar event amid dire economic conditions in the region and around the country.

Obama visited the area in northern Indiana repeatedly as a presidential candidate in 2008 and later as president, using the hard-hit community as an example for his economic agenda. He touted his administration’s success in staving off further economic disaster while promoting the stimulus funds that had reached the area’s businesses.

The White House noted on Wednesday that unemployment in Elkhart had plummeted from a high of 19.6% – well above the national rate – to 4.1%. Graduation rates and housing indicators have also improved in the region.

“The story of Elkhart’s recovery is the story of America’s recovery,” Obama wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday. “Today, Elkhart’s manufacturing industry is back, and the town has regained nearly all of the jobs it lost during the downturn.”

Despite the improvements, Elkhart voters haven’t seemed to reward Obama. In 2008, he won 44% of the vote in Elkhart County, still losing by a 10-point margin to Sen. John McCain. Four years also, Obama lost by an even larger 26-point margin to Mitt Romney.

This year, the county went for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in its respective Democratic and Republican primary contests.

In a email to supporters Wednesday, Obama suggested that Americans in places like Elkhart were facing an crucial political decision that could determine their economic futures.

“We still face some tough economic challenges, there’s no doubt about it,” he wrote. “And all of us have to make some very important decisions about where we go from here.”

In his final year in office, Obama has been returning to sites in the U.S. with significance for his presidential career. In February he visited Springfield, Illinois, where he first announced in 2007 he was running for the White House.