The campaign-style visit to a Chrysler plant here, a city battered by plant closures, was meant to underscore the message that the stimulus, the auto-company bailouts and other federal measures had prevented even worse economic devastation.
The unemployment rate in Kokomo has dropped from 20 percent last year to 12 percent, thanks in part to $400 million in stimulus money and the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, administration officials said.
"No, we aren't out of the woods yet," Obama said at the plant. "It took a lot of years to get us into this mess. It will take longer than anybody would like to get us out. But I want everybody to be absolutely clear, we are moving in the right direction."
The appearance highlighted the administration's efforts to revive Chrysler, which has four plants in the city, employing nearly 4,500. The smaller of the two bailed-out automakers, Chrysler faced far graver challenges than did General Motors during the downturn.
Although both companies had been staggered by financial burdens, Chrysler also suffered from a nearly empty pipeline of products. Many analysts and some within the administration argued that the company should not be saved.