ELKHART, Ind. (WLS) --President Obama delivered a speech in Elkhart, Ind., Wednesday, nearly eight years after he visited the state to deliver a speech at the height of the Great Recession. The return trip was largely a defense of his nearly-complete two terms in office. He acknowledged he was in largely unfriendly territory - in his words, "I got whooped here in Elkhart in 2012."
But he said that was part of the reason he chose to return to Elkhart: to make the case that his positions on things like health care, immigration and the economy are right. He never mentioned Donald Trump by name, but it's clear the president is trying to steer votes in this latest lap of his legacy tour.
"In today's economy, we're not going to walls around America, we're not going to round up 11 million people, we're not going to put technology back in the box, we're not going to rip away hard-earned rights of women, minorities and Americans with disabilities so that they're more able to fully and fairly in the workplace. These are permanent fixtures of our economy and rolling them back won't help folks in Elkhart or any place else," President Obama said.
President Obama first came to Elkhart in the early days of his presidency. As he pointed out, not only was his hair less grey but the economy was in far worse shape than it is in 2016.
When the president visited in 2009, Elkhart's unemployment rate spiked at nearly 20 percent; in 2016, it's at 4 percent. That drop is reflected nationally as well: in 2009 unemployment reached 10 percent, while in 2016 it's near 5 1/2 percent.
"The primary story that Republicans have been telling about the economy is not supported by the facts. But they say it anyway. Why is that? Because it has worked to get them votes," President Obama told the crowd Wednesday.
Elkhart is the nation's biggest builder of RVs. In 2016 they will ship 400,000, an all-time record. They also have a Republican mayor, Tim Neese.
When asked who he thought deserved the credit for the economy, Neese said, "I really don't care who gets the credit as long as we succeed and we continue to be successful."
Indiana's Republican governor Mike Pence said it was local policies, not the president's, that are responsible for Elkhart's comeback.