Image: Barack Obama
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to speak at the Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, Iowa, Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
updated 6/28/2011 3:57:38 PM ET 2011-06-28T19:57:38

President Barack Obama on Tuesday brought a made-in-America pitch to this politically vital state, saying innovation and adaptation will help the manufacturing sector and the entire U.S. economy rebound with more gusto. He admonished a divided Washington to stop bickering and rally together like a team.

Here in the home of the first presidential caucuses, Obama made a quick but unmistakable nod to his own re-election bid. Fondly recalling his win here in 2008, Obama said to Iowa: "We've got some history together. And together we're going to make some more history for years to come."

First Thoughts: Iowa matters

The president, under steady pressure to bolster a sluggish economy, is showering attention on manufacturing as an American story of adaptation. He chose the setting of Alcoa Davenport Works, an aluminum factory whose products are exported around the world and used for such high-tech applications as the wings for the presidential jet Air Force One.

The plant has re-hired the workers it laid off during the recent recession and is eying an expansion, said Obama, who pushed a broader theme of American resilience.

"You had to up your game," Obama said to the workers. "And that's what we've got to do as a country as a whole. I want the cars and planes and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says 'Made in America.'"

Obama's victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses catapulted his presidential campaign, and the state is now being flooded with Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination and criticizing his economic leadership.

Video: Obama and Palin woo crowds in Iowa (on this page)

The president said that the country has the workers, companies and industries to mount a stronger economic recovery: "We are still the United States of America."

The stop is part of Obama's effort to promote job creation in the midst of an economic slowdown that has reduced hiring and weakened his job approval standing with the public. After last month's weak unemployment report showed an uptick in the jobless rate to 9.1 percent, the White House is warily eyeing the release of more up-to-date numbers on July 8.

The White House sees a recovery in the U.S. manufacturing industry as one way to create jobs and stay competitive in the global marketplace. Last week, Obama announced a $500 million joint effort by industry, universities and the federal government to help reposition the United States as a leader in cutting-edge manufacturing.

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Back in Washington, Obama is in a high-stakes stalemate with Republicans over a deal that could cut some $2 trillion from the nation's debt and perhaps clear the way for Congress to extend the nation's borrowing limit. The administration says that debt limit must be raised by Aug. 2 or the government will face a catastrophic default on its obligations.

Obama made no direct reference to that fight but called on the country and its leaders to start "thinking like a team, instead of turning on each other."

"I promise you," he said, "if you we continue to adapt and we continue to innovate and we work together to compete around the world, America will come back stronger than before."

Video: Does the president play both sides at once? (on this page)

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party said it comes as no surprise that Obama showed up in the traditional political battleground.

"There's a famous political saying that 'no politician comes to Iowa by accident.' I'm sure part of this is a political calculation," Matt Strawn said.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has not said whether she will run for president, was in Iowa on Tuesday for the screening of a documentary about her.

Obama made time in Iowa to relax with the locals. His first stop was Ross' 24-Hour Restaurant, a Bettendorf diner. Among the president's orders was a "Magic Mountain," a house specialty that includes Texas toast and mounds of ground beef.

"I hope he brought his antacids," quipped Cynthia Freidhof, the daughter of the restaurant's founder.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Obama and Palin woo crowds in Iowa

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama and Palin woo crowds in Iowa

    >>> we're only halfway through 2011 , but the 2012 presidential race is already intensifying. and some key players have been focusing a lot of their attention on the key battleground state of iowa this week. nbc's kelly o'donnell's in pella with the latest. kelly , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. we've been talking to voters here around the state who say this is really an ideal time for them to get to see and size up a number of candidates and would-be candidates. that's sure happening among republicans. but another candidate who knows how valuable iowa can be to a white house run was back, and that's the president of the united states .

    >> hello, iowa !

    >> reporter: iowans expect to hear plenty of this.

    >> you know, i know you've been seeing a lot of politicians around lately.

    >> reporter: warmly courted by the president tuesday who stopped at an aluminum manufacturer to talk jobs.

    >> iowa , you and i, we go a long way back.

    >> reporter: a few hours away, sarah palin brought her brand of celebrity to a movie premiere attended by about 300 iowans.

    >> it is a wonderful story about american values .

    >> reporter: shot documentary style, the movie depicts palin favorably as a tough reformer in alaska.

    >> sarah had the courage to try. she had taken on the system already.

    >> reporter: made by conservative filmmaker steven bannan who says palin cooperated but had no control over the film's content.

    >> i think this film plays to the core value of the tea party and tea party movement and i hope it energizes people to get actively engaged. sfwh

    >> we're still thinking about that.

    >> reporter: palin was asked about bristol's comments that mom has already decided.

    >> she gedefinitely knows. we've talked about it before but some things just need to stay in the family.

    >> what's said on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat .

    >> reporter: just-declared candidate michele bachmann --

    >> you are the first people in the united states to see the bachmann for president bus!

    >> reporter: who made stops in new hampshire and south carolina tuesday faces new candidate scrutiny including financial records for a family business .

    >> i'd like you to meet my husband, marcus bachmann !

    >> reporter: the couple owns bachmann & associates, a minnesota mental health clinic run by the congresswoman's husband who is a clinical therapist. while bachmann campaigns for less government spending and opposes an expansion of medicaid, nbc news obtained state records that show the bachmann 's clinic received government funds. $137,000 in federal and state medicaid payments since 2005 . that money considered reimbursement for treatment provided to low-income patients. and that's the kind of thing that many health clinics do do, and there's no suggestion that there's anything improper about that. we reached out to the bachmann campaign for specific comment. we did not hear back. but michele bachmann will be coming back to iowa for her first bus tour as a candidate officially in just a couple of days. ann?

    >> kelly o'donnell, thank you very


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