President Obama traveled to Toledo, Ohio, on Friday, amid a disappointing jobs report, to highlight what his administration sees as one area of success: the rescue of the American auto industry.
Obama's visit to a Chrysler factory in this important battleground state comes on a day the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the nation's unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent in May, with the economy adding a lower-than-expected 54,000 jobs. The president made no mention of the job figures in his 20-minute speech, even as he acknowledged that despite having made great strides, the economy still faced "strong headwinds" from high gas prices to economic disruptions following tragedy in japan to instability in the Middle East that creates uncertainty.
"Even though the economy is growing, even though it's created more than two million jobs over the past 15 months, we still face some tough times; we still face some challenges," the president said. "There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery."
The state of the economy, a topic at the top of voters' minds, is sure to play a key role in the next election and Obama has been eager to show Americans that growing jobs is at the top of his agenda.
The White House has hailed the unpopular government bailout of the auto industry as a resounding success and sough to shine a spotlight on news that Chrysler has repaid $10.6 billion in government loans six years ahead of schedule and that Italian carmaker Fiat has agreed the Treasury Department's stake in the company.
Noting the auto industry overall had added 113,000 jobs over the last two years -- after losing some 400,000 jobs in the year before he took office -- the president listed other signs of strength among American automakers.
"I placed my bet on you. I put my faith in the American worker," he said. "Today all three automakers are turning a profit -- that hasn't happened since 2004. Today all three American automakers are gaining market share - that hasn't happened since 1995."
Republicans wasted no time in blaming the president and his policies on the unemployment numbers, with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) telling reporters this morning that "the overtaxing, overregulating and overspending that is going on in Washington is creating uncertainty" and keeping job creators on the sidelines.