Obama Reaches Out to Coats

by Robert Costa

A Senate GOP source tells me that President Obama just got off the phone with Sen.-elect Dan Coats (R., Ind.). “It was their first conversation since the election,” he says. “The president congratulated Dan on his win. Most of the chat was about the economy. The president also talked about why he is in Indiana today — detailing the programs and policies behind the visit. Coats spoke about the concerns of Hoosiers, especially jobs.”

Obama will be in Kokomo this afternoon:

Obama is expected to point to Kokomo as a beneficiary of the administration’s Recovery Act and its restructuring plan for parts of the auto industry. The White House says the city is rebounding and unemployment has fallen by almost eight percentage points. Still, the jobless rate is above 12%, so Kokomo remains a work in progress.

The town also represents the auto industry’s reach across the U.S. , especially in the country’s industrial midsection. For people who think of Michigan and perhaps California as centers of the car business, a closer look at Kokomo, which is home to several factories supplying the auto industry, offers a dose of perspective. It’s the kind of town people were talking about two years ago when they said allowing big domestic car makers to fail would lead to economic disaster.

Today the Obama administration is using the town as a backdrop to show its recovery program is working and the auto industry is on the mend. The White House says the restructured Chrysler Group has invested $300 million to retool and update the Kokomo transmission plant, which has helped retain more than 1,000 jobs in the company’s Kokomo operations. It also cited the opening of a plant to manufacture hybrid-vehicle parts as one result of an $89 million Recovery Act grant.