President Obama asked for patience in reversing job losses that he said were a decade in the making, in a campaign-style appearance that sought to recall some of the excitement of his long-shot candidacy in 2008.
Returning to the state that set him on a path to the White House, Obama visited an Alcoa factory Tuesday to underscore the importance of advanced manufacturing in America's economic recovery.
He cited strides made in rehiring manufacturing workers who had been laid off during the recession, part of some 2 million private sector jobs created in the past 15 months. But as he often does in such speeches, he conceded that the economic recovery hasn't touched large swaths of the work force.
Wearing a white shirt and tie -- no suit jacket in sight -- Obama said, "For a lot of Americans, those numbers don't matter if they're still out of work or if they have a job that doesn't pay enough to pay the mortgage, to pay the bills. So we've got more work to do and that work is going to take some time. The problems that we developed didn't happen overnight. We're not going to solve them overnight either, but we will solve them."
The Alcoa plant produces advanced aerospace and military parts, including the wings of Air Force One. It was chosen to highlight improvements in the manufacturing sector. The Bettendorf plant now employs 2,200 people -- more than before the recession kicked in.
Much has changed since Obama's triumph in the 2008 caucuses. Iowa is a swing state that Obama will be hard-pressed to hold in 2012. Since he took office, Iowa Republicans have eaten into the Democrats' registration advantage and also picked up the governor's seat and a majority of state Assembly seats.
When Obama was sworn in, Iowa had 111,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. This month, the Democratic registration advantage stood at 36,000.
The Eastern Iowa county that Obama visited illustrates the political perils. In 2008 Obama easily carried Scott County, the third largest in the state. But in the midterm elections last year, county voters backed Republican Terry Branstad for governor with 51 percent of the vote.