MAUMEE, Ohio — President Barack Obama's bus trip on Thursday through northern Ohio was taking him to four areas with big auto plants as he defends his decision to rescue U.S. automakers.
His first stop was the Toledo suburb of Maumee, where hundreds of supporters, including several wearing UAW T-shirts, waited two hours on a muggy morning for his arrival.
"The best thing he ever could have done was save the auto industry," said William Harris of Holland, a worker for a Chrysler engine plant in Detroit for 36 years before retiring. "It's not back yet, but it's come a long ways."
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown warmed up the crowd, all touting the auto industry's revival. Brown applauded U.S. efforts to defend American auto jobs against what he called unfair Chinese trade practices.
Ohio residents waiting to enter the event agreed the auto industry is key for the area but had varying opinions on the political impact of the auto bailout.
Thomas Hutton, a retired pharmacist from Toledo, said the auto industry is important but he didn't think it would be a defining issue for the presidential campaign.
"It's a side issue," he said. "The big ones are the economy and heath care."
Army retiree Glenn Shields said preserving jobs is good but he thinks the auto companies should've recognized their problems sooner. He said the auto bailout will be an important issue in November.
"It's going to be a major factor," said the 69-year-old. "The big issue will be the growing debt related to the bailout."
Linda Schneider of Maumee said she was unemployed four years ago before getting a human resources job with a Toledo-area auto parts company.
"This is an auto region," she said. "We need (the industry) to survive."