Venturing back to a region reeling in deep unemployment, President Barack Obama's latest mission in Indiana is to show that the costly stimulus plan he lobbied for is producing tangible help — $2.4 billion in taxpayer grants to create electric cars and tens of thousands of jobs.
At a recreational-vehicle plant in northern Indiana, Obama on Wednesday will announce the grants as part of a bid to stabilize American confidence. His stop in Wakarusa, Ind., is part of a concerted economic campaign that also will see Vice President Joe Biden and three Cabinet secretaries holding events in four states.
As Congress breaks for the summer, the public message war is on. Obama wants to persuade Americans that his economic agenda is working but also remind them it will take time to produce the numbers that people really want: more jobs.
That matters immensely in the region where Obama is headed, a capital of RV manufacturing. The industry has been crushed by the recession.
Indiana's Elkhart-Goshen area had an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent in June. That's up 10 percentage points from last year. It's also higher than it was when Obama visited in February, although the jobless rate has at least come down from 17.5 percent in May.
This is the same region where Obama made his first bolt outside the Washington beltway as president, three weeks on the job. He was lobbying for the stimulus.
The resulting $787 billion legislation included $2.4 billion to support a new generation of electric cars. The competition for the money is completed, giving Obama something concrete to offer in his return visit. The money will be split among nearly 50 projects in 25 states, with the biggest shares going to Indiana and Michigan to create job opportunities in the automotive sector.
Grant recipients include Johnson Controls , of Milwaukee, $299 million to build battery packs and cells for hybrid vehicles at a facility in Holland, Mich.; General Motors , $241 million to produce battery packs and the develop electric drive vehicles in Michigan and Maryland, and Ford Motor , $92.7 million for electric drive components at plants in Michigan and Missouri.
Obama also will be selling his broader, stick-with-it message about building the foundation of a whole new economy. At stake is the kind of public support that could influence his success on related matters such as health care legislation, as Republican criticism mounts and public skepticism of the stimulus looms.