2012 ELECTION

President Obama kicks off 2-day bus tour

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MAUMEE, Ohio (AP) - Defending his economic policies, President Barack Obama said Thursday he was betting that Americans wouldn't lose interest or heart in the upcoming election despite a political stalemate in Congress.

PHOTOS: George W. Bush, Barack Obama share stage during portrait unveiling

PHOTOS: George W. Bush, Barack Obama share stage during portrait unveiling 22 Photos
PHOTOS: George W. Bush, Barack Obama share stage during portrait unveiling

He said the next election would set the country's economic outlook for the next decade and beyond.

Kicking off a two-day bus tour of northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, Obama described a political system at a crossroads and argued that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, would pursue economic policies that favor the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

The president said he was willing to work with "anybody who believes that we're in this together."

"I'm not a Democrat first, I'm an American first," Obama said at a quintessential campaign scene, an early 19th-century museum complex dotted with red-white-and-blue bunting and American flags.

Holding his first campaign event since the Supreme Court's decision a week ago to uphold his health care law, Obama defended his sweeping changes to the system.

"The law I passed is here to stay," he said. "It is going to make the vast majority of Americans more secure."

Obama sought to draw attention to the economies in both states that have been helped by a stronger auto industry, noting that a Jeep plant in nearby Toledo was hiring.

Obama said the experience in both states, where joblessness is below the national average, can be replicated nationwide. Making sure that it does, he said, is why he is running for a second term.

"There are some folks who are betting that you will lose interest, that are betting that somehow you are going to lose heart. But here you are in the heat," Obama said, wearing a gray short-sleeved shirt on a steamy, sunny day that forced him to wipe away sweat that dripped down his face. "I'm betting you're not going to lose interest. I'm betting you're not going to lose heart. I still believe on you, I'm betting on you. And the country is betting on you Ohio."

Obama's bus tour was coinciding with Friday's release of the June jobs report.

The May report showed unemployment had ticked up to 8.2 percent, while the economy created about 69,000 jobs, raising concerns among Obama's team about the potential for the economy to slow down.

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