Barack Obama in one of his four trips to Elkhart County

The following article from U.K-based The Guardian examines the slow recovery in Indiana’s Elkhart County and the area’s significance in President Barack Obama’s bid to secure a second term. To read the entire article click here.

For the past three years Ed Neufeldt has been wearing the same green rubber bracelets stamped “Jobs for America”. He plans to take them off when unemployment in his home town of Elkhart, Indiana, falls below 8%. That day appears, finally, to be approaching – albeit achingly slowly. “The whole United States is not doing that good,” Neufeldt says. “But here we’re better off than we were three years ago.”

Few towns hold as much history for Barack Obama’s presidency as Elkhart. This was the city where he fought to establish himself as the candidate of hope and change, first in a bruising encounter with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and then for the presidency. On his road to victory, Obama visited here four times in 15 months, and in February 2009 he chose Elkhart for his first trip outside Washington since his inauguration.

Neufeldt, then an unemployed recreational vehicle worker, was thrust into the national spotlight when he was chosen to introduce the newly inaugurated president of the United States at a local rally. “I am hoping and praying that president Obama will put the people of Elkhart County back to work. The stakes are high,” Neufeldt said then.

“I promised you back then if I was elected, I would do everything I could to help this community recover, and that’s why I’m back here today,” said Obama as he pushed the American Recovery Act, an $800bn stimulus plan he hoped would get America back to work.

Back then unemployment in the area was 18%. Obama charmed the locals, playing basketball with children in the streets and dipping into local diners to the shock and delight of proprietors and patrons alike. And he made big promises.

Four years on, Elkhart has gone from a symbol of Obama’s message of hope to a perfect example of the biggest hurdle the president faces in his bid for re-election: the gap between empirical measures that show economic recovery, and the pain people continue to feel. That is why Obama will have one clear goal when he delivers his acceptance speech to the Democratic national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday night: spelling out a compelling economic case for giving him four more years.

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan famously asked voters in the 1980 campaign. It is the question that looms over the 2012 presidential election, and one which has dogged the Obama campaign this week as they have struggled to come up with a convincing answer.

To read the entire article click here.