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Obama to Iowa: We 'go back a long way'

BETTENSDORF, Iowa -- President Obama visited the Alcoa aluminum plant here in a trip meant both to highlight his administration's new manufacturing initiatives and check in with a key 2012 battleground state.

After touring some of the plant's machinery and products, Obama's began his remarks by noting the flurry of activity in the first caucus state among Republican candidates as they jockey for support and donors.

"I know you've been seeing a lot of politicians around lately. Something tells me that you may see a few more before February is over," Obama told the crowd, reminding them that he and voters in the state "go back a long way."

"We've got some history together, and together were going to make some more history for years to come."

Iowa is a swing state. Obama won it with 54 percent in 2008, but former President George W. Bush won it four years – by less than a percentage point over Sen. John Kerry – and Al Gore won it in 2000.

The president used the appearance at a manufacturing plant to tout his recent pro-manufacturing initiatives, including a program meant to match community college training with local businesses' job needs, and a partnership between universities, corporations and the federal government to share research and development.

His speech sounded more like a stump speech, however. He pledged to "make America the best place for middle class jobs," and, taking a swipe at slow-moving talks over the debt ceiling, contrasted the fast pace of the Alcoa plant to the inertia in the nation's capitol.

"Instead of having the kind of squabbling we see in Washington all the time,” Obama said, “we have to work together the way workers, engineers, the business side of Alcoa thinks together.”

Obama's speech prompted a response from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who has been trying to gain a foothold in Iowa for arguably the longest out of any other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Speeches like the one President Obama gave today will not create a single job,” Pawlenty said. “Leadership that is heavy on rhetoric and light on results does not grow our economy. We need a President who will not only talk about making tough choices, but actually has a record of results."