Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
Getty Images / Scott Olson
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests gathered for a town hall style meeting on June 30, 2010 in Racine, Wisconsin.
“Great to be back in the Midwest, if only for a day,” Obama said. “I stopped off on the way here to get a kringle. Maybe on the way back I’ll stop for a brat and some cheese curds.”
If only the president's appetite could prop up this city with one of the nation's worst unemployment rates.
Instead, the president was there to tell residents that he's still working to turn things around. About 1,300 people gathered to hear how the president plans to do it.
Obama said he knows that Racine, with the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, is hurting, but said the economy is headed in the right direction.
He said the recession was so deep it will take months or years to turn it around, if the Republicans don't stymie efforts.
Obama railed against one House lawmaker's apology to BP oil and another's criticism of Wall Street overhaul legislation.
Ahead of tough congressional elections this fall, Obama said "we have a choice as a nation." He said that voters will be choosing between returning "to the failed economic policies of the past" and moving toward "a stronger future."
"I want to move forward," the president said.
Many in this Wisconsin town wanted to know why the U.S. Export-Import Bank voted last week to deny loan guarantees to local company Bucyrus for a mining project in India. The bank reversed its decision Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, so that issue is likely off the table.
Hundreds of union workers were set for a silent protest, because without the project the company would have had to lay off around 1,000 people.
Confronting pessimism like the civic malaise over Bucyrus loan deal is part of the reason for Obama’s trip.
Obama says the U.S. faces a choice between returning to what he calls failed economic policies of the past, or moving forward.
Obama promoted Wall Street reform legislation pending in Congress, saying it will "protect our economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility of a few."
Obama continued a tone that has characterized some of his recent public remarks, accusing Republicans of being out of touch with the struggles of ordinary Americans.
Like Lance McCoy, a Racine resident who's out of work, but optimistic.
"Things will get better, you have to believe," said McCoy, who was one of the first people in line for the town hall.
Dorothy Constantine, also a Racine resident, said: "people are getting minimal jobs but it's a sign of recovery.”