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CLEVELAND (AP) – President Barack Obama is telling voters in Ohio, wracked by high unemployment, that investments in clean-energy technologies will help boost the nation’s economy.
Obama planned to use his visit Friday to test-drive an aggressive populist push on jobs, a top concern for voters across the country. The White House is shifting its message to emphasize the economy heading into fall elections expected to be difficult for Democrats.
Before Obama landed in Cleveland Friday, the state reported that its unemployment rate climbed even higher in December, to 10.9 percent from 10.6 percent the month before.
Obama was meeting with voters in the northeast part of Ohio, where steel mills have given way to rust.
A town hall session was on Obama’s public schedule at Lorain County Community College, near Cleveland. He was last in the county before the state’s March 2008 presidential primary, when he delivered a speech on the economy at a drywall factory that closed two months later.
Obama was expected to note such challenges as he spends a day in the state that delivered him a victory in his 2008 campaign but is shaping up to be a tough haul heading into elections for an open Senate seat and the governor’s office as well as the House delegation.
Officials are tinkering with a revamped Obama message in the face of a potentially disastrous political shift that, on Tuesday, elected Massachusetts Republican state Sen. Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate in a seat long occupied by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Obama looked to Ohio to reset his record with a campaign-style day, complete with a tour of a wind turbine plant and visits with local leaders. He also sought to harness the energy of the campaign trail that he mastered during his two-year campaign for the presidency.
At the White House on Thursday, he stridently challenged Wall Street and urged Congress to limit banks’ size and practices.
“If these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have,” Obama said.
His reaction to a Supreme Court decision rolling back limits on campaign donations by big business was stern. He charged that the decision would allow wealthy special interests to “drown out the voices of everyday Americans” and promised a “forceful response.”
It wasn’t the way Obama wanted to mark this week’s first anniversary of his presidency. Nonetheless, a chastened but determined White House team, populated with campaign-seasoned aides accustomed to stark setbacks, began to grapple with the implications and chart a path forward after the Brown victory.