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Obama discusses economy, politics in Missouri

KANSAS CITY -- In a visit here to an electric vehicle manufacturer, President Obama argued the U.S. economy is "headed in the right direction," as he directly called out his Republican critics, saying some have "made the political calculation that it's better to obstruct than to lend a hand."

With the midterm elections drawing near, there was a clear political undertone to the president's remarks at this manufacturing plant, which received $32 million dollars in stimulus funds to develop electric-powered delivery trucks.

Obama said those "who argue that we ought to abandon our efforts" should visit plants like this one, which he said would be out of businesses without the government's financial incentives and tax breaks.

He defended his administrations' economic policies, saying investments in clean energy has created private-sector jobs that he promised will continue to grow in the green technology sector for years to come.

While explaining that his policies are expanding the economy, the president also warned of "hard days" ahead -- adding that "the surest way out of these storms we've been in is to keep moving forward, not back."

Obama also came here to Missouri to stump for U.S. Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan, who's running against GOP Rep. Roy Blunt for the seat vacated by Republican Kit Bond.

After the stop at Smith Electric Vehicle, Obama headlined two fundraisers for Carnahan, which were expected to net a total of $500,000 in campaign cash.

At those fundraisers, Obama sharpened his critique of Republicans, criticizing what he called "our friends in the other party" for voting against the administration's financial regulatory reform plan.

Urging voters to send Carnahan to Washington, he said Americans will face a choice in the fall elections. "This is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess to begin with, and the policies that are going to get us out," he told an audience of 750 Democratic supporters.

Obama again went after House Minority Leader John Boehner for his now-infamous "ant" comment. Playing to the friendly crowd, he joked, "You could imagine a move 'The Ant that ate our Economy,' that's a big ant!"

And he returned to an often-used refrain labeling Republicans as the "party of no." He said he's tried to work with Republicans, but lamented that "they say no to everything, don't they though? I know when I talk to 'em, I say we can get something going here can't we? No, don't want to!"

The remarks were full of campaign themes and rhetoric the White House says you'll be hearing a lot more of from the president in the coming months, as he tries to shape the debate over how his administration has responded to the economic crisis.