KANSAS CITY, Mo. —With crucial midterm congressional elections now less than four months away, President Obama came to Kansas City on Thursday and took off his coat — and gloves.
In a spirited speech reminiscent of his full-throttle 2008 run for the White House, he ripped into Republicans as the party of "no" and charged that the GOP had driven the economy into the ditch and now wanted the keys back.
"They're trying to run the okie dokie on you," Obama said after doffing his suit jacket before a boisterous crowd at the Folly Theater. "Trying to bamboozle you. It's not going to work. We don't have to guess how the other party will govern because we're still living with the results."
The remarks came at the end of Obama's 4 1/2-hour visit to Kansas City, his first as president. His comments suggested that Obama is returning to campaign mode in a bid to save as many Democratic congressional seats as he can this fall, despite the poor economy and his own falling popularity.
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Some pundits predict that Democrats could lose control of the House and possibly even the Senate.
The trip was planned primarily to help raise money for Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, who introduced Obama at the Folly, shook his hand and embraced him.
Although she had appeared with Obama in rural Missouri in April, she was out of the state when Obama attended a big Democratic fundraiser in March in St. Louis, causing Republicans to suggest that she didn't want to be seen next to the president.
Obama urged the crowd to send Carnahan to the Senate and not "the other guy," U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, the likely Republican nominee.
"She's going there to represent the people of Missouri," Obama said. "She calls them as she sees them, and sees them the way you do."
Carnahan said she was happy to have the president help her campaign, which is expected to net between $250,000 and $500,000 from the two fundraisers.
During a conference call with reporters before the president's arrival, Blunt said: "The federal government has created so much uncertainty and is spending way too much money. And people see that as a reason to hesitate about moving forward with private-sector job creation."
He said the stimulus program simply didn't work.
"That's almost a trillion dollars we didn't owe 18 months earlier," said Blunt, a congressman from southwest Missouri. "I think the president has a hard case to make."
But Obama made his case anyway, insisting that Republicans had not offered any new ideas, only fought him at every turn. He said the GOP thinks that foiling him is a win, whether or not it hurts the country.
"They're trying to sell you the same stuff they've been peddling," Obama said. "They are peddling that same snake oil they've been peddling for years."
Obama was in a more somber executive mode earlier in the day during a tour of Smith Electric Vehicles near Kansas City International Airport. After arriving on Air Force One, the president surprised some by shunning his limousine and walking about 600 yards to the nearby plant accompanied by the Secret Service and a media entourage.
Addressing plant employees and public officials, Obama defended his stewardship of the economy. He also lauded the work of Smith Electric, a maker of battery-powered delivery trucks, as an example of a new wave of green-energy companies that have been bolstered by the federal stimulus package.
A recipient of $32 million in stimulus grants, Smith Electric just hired its 50th worker and plans to bring on 50 more, Obama noted.
"You are setting a model for what we need to be across the country," Obama told a small crowd inside a former TWA airplane maintenance building that Smith Electric now occupies.
"And we're seeing similar things all across America, with investments and incentives that are fostering growth in wind power and solar power, in energy-efficient appliances and home building materials, and in advanced battery technologies and clean energy vehicles," the president said.
The United States now manufactures only 2 percent of the world's specialized vehicle batteries, Obama said, but could make as much as 40 percent within a few years. Developing that kind of green industry was what the stimulus was all about, the president added.