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In a city Obama helped rescue, Trump blasts Dems on economy

Under Obama, the unemployment rate in Elkhart went from 20% to 4%. This is where Trump made the case against the Democratic economic agenda.
Image: Donald Trump, Mike Pence
President Donald Trump with, Vice President Mike Pence, left, speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, about...

Donald Trump headlined yet another campaign rally last night, this time in Elkhart, Indiana, where the president hopes to rally Republican support to defeat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). And while Trump covered quite a bit of ground at the event, his economic message stood out as ... odd.

Embracing the role of party leader, President Donald Trump issued a stern warning Thursday that Democrats would disrupt the economic progress of his administration as he implored fellow Republicans to mobilize behind a slate of Indiana candidates.Trump used one of his signature rallies in northern Indiana to paint a rosy picture of his presidency, pointing to low unemployment, "booming" job growth and optimism under his watch.

Democrats, he said, will "destroy your jobs."

To be sure, this is standard political rhetoric that wouldn't be especially notable -- were it not for the location in which Trump made the comments, which turned out to be more interesting than the comments themselves.

As regular readers may recall, Elkhart took on special political significance in recent years, thanks in large part to multiple visits from Barack Obama. In 2009, the president spoke to NBC's Chuck Todd before an event in the community, and Todd asked if it'd be "fair" to use the city as a case study -- if what happened to Elkhart in the Obama era could credibly represent the success or failure of the White House's economic agenda.

"Absolutely," the president replied.

In the months that followed, MSNBC created an online venture called "The Elkhart Project," monitoring the city's progress as Obama's policies started to take effect. In the years that followed, the area's unemployment rate went from one of the nation's worst to one of the nation's best.

Indeed, Elkhart's turnaround was nothing short of amazing. At the height of the Great Recession, the mid-sized city, just east of South Bend, was devastated, with an unemployment rate that topped 20%. Under President Obama, however, Elkhart boomed and its jobless rate fell below 4%.

It's now less than 3%.

As it turns out, Elkhart tends to be a pretty conservative area, and by and large, locals haven't been eager to give Obama credit for the area's turnaround.

But putting all of that aside, consider the context of Trump's pitch last night: the Republican president believes that voters who care about the economy should make sure they steer clear of the party whose economic agenda took the area's unemployment rate from 20% to 4%.

It's a tough sell. Indeed, as one observer once said, "The economy does better under the Democrats than under the Republicans." That observer, of course, was Donald J. Trump.