Against a backdrop of American-made cars, President Obama cast his Republican critics on Thursday as having lost faith in the American people, part of an emerging campaign strategy to try to turn the country’s populist mood against his opponents. Visiting his third auto plant in the last week, Mr. Obama portrayed his efforts to save the industry as an act of patriotism, and the opposition to them as a fundamental expression of pessimism in the country. Even more than he did during a swing through Michigan last week, he suggested that his adversaries lacked confidence in the resilience of American workers and the American economy. “I wish they were standing here today and saw what I see,” he told an audience of cheering workers at a Ford Motor Company plant here in his hometown. “I wish they could see the pride you take in building these great cars, American-made cars. And my message to them is: Don’t bet against the American worker; don’t lose faith in the American people; don’t lose faith in American industry. We are coming back.” The auto bailout began under the Bush administration. Republicans who opposed Mr. Obama’s expansion of the bailout objected primarily on the grounds that it was too much government intrusion into the private sector. On Thursday, Republicans criticized Mr. Obama’s visit to the car plant because, unlike General Motors or Chrysler, Ford turned itself around without taking a federal bailout. “Desperate to Claim Economic Victory, Obama Visits Ford Plant to Tout Success He Had Nothing to Do With,” read a Republican National Committee statement. White House officials countered that Ford indirectly benefited from the bailout because the federal money kept suppliers in business. Moreover, officials noted that Ford used a $400 million loan from the Energy Department to retool the plant Mr. Obama visited on Thursday to build an energy-efficient line of Explorers, adding 1,200 workers.
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