Obama to highlight economic progress in NewsHour town hall

Elkhart, Indiana, was one of the cities hit worst by the financial crisis in 2009 and was the first city President Obama visited after taking office, though the city remains deeply divided along partisan lines. Obama will return to Elkhart Wednesday to review the city’s economic progress and participate in an interview and town hall moderated by the NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill. John Yang reports.

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    Tomorrow, President Obama will return to the first city he visited after becoming president, Elkhart, Indiana. It was one of the worst-hit cities back in 2009, and the president will be delivering a speech to tout what's been accomplished since then.

    He will sit down with our Gwen Ifill for an interview while he's there, and then answer questions from residents in a town hall special we will be airing tomorrow night.

    It all comes during a tough phase of the election cycle, as the president seeks to make a case for his legacy.

    John Yang has the story.


    President Obama's trip to Elkhart, Indiana, tomorrow marks his fifth visit since he was a candidate in 2008.

    In 2009, he went there to announce $170 million in federal stimulus money for Elkhart County. Elkhart is a city of about 50,000 people that is known as the R.V. capital of the world, an industry on the rebound since cratering during the recession.

    At its worst, unemployment reached 20 percent. Now it's 3.8 percent. Some give the president a certain amount of credit for that.

  • JERRY YOUNG, Elkhart Resident:

    He's been doing as best as he could do. It wasn't perfect when he got in.

  • PAM LAMBRIGHT, Elkhart Resident:

    We have come a long way. I think that the economy is fairly good now. When it crashed in '08, it was like a ghost town around here.


    Ed Neufeldt knows that firsthand. Laid off from his job in the R.V. industry in 2009, he now works four part-time jobs, including cleaning a doctor's office. He's thankful there's enough work for him.

  • ED NEUFELDT, Elkhart Resident:

    If you want a job in Elkhart County, there's a job. You can find a job. There's help wanted signs all over. Elkhart's doing great.


    It's quite a contract to when we last met him in 2009, when his employer of 32 years closed.


    We were one of the bigger corporations. I thought we would be one of the last to be around, but we weren't.


    Despite the recovery, Neufeldt says there's a big divide globally. Republicans and Democrats can't get along.


    They're angry. That's the reason so many people are voting for Donald Trump. They want to see a change. I guess they feel like government is just — is crooked.

    In fact, with President Obama going to Elkhart tomorrow to make his case for an economic legacy, Neufeldt presents one of the challenges for the president and for the Democratic candidates who want to succeed it. Neufeldt doesn't know who he will vote for in the fall.

    And when the "NewsHour" caught up with locals at the Memorial Day Parade, some said they were unhappy with the president, like this Trump supporter who listed his complaints with Mr. Obama.

  • KENNETH STORY, Elkhart Resident:

    Lack of pride of America and everybody getting their feelings hurt over stupid things.


    In 2012, President Obama lost Elkhart County to Mitt Romney by a 2-1 wide margin on his way to losing the state. Although Elkhart's fortunes and those of the R.V. industry have made a dramatic turnaround, the lingering anxiety mirrors communities across the country worried about their future.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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