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Barack Obama, playing in Peoria

Caterpillar equipment

But how will it play in Peoria?

For decades, politicians and advertisers have used this Midwestern city of Midwestern values as something of a barometer. Once in the heartland of the country (which has since moved South and West), this Illinois town has cachet as a test market for everything from toothpaste to political candidates.

But a $789-billion stimulus package?

As President Obama lands today to tour a Cat factory in East Peoria and tout the just-passed stimulus package for its ability to create jobs, he's got more than the hometown advantage of an Illinois politician returning to his base. He's got a CEO on board.

Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, who announced in January that the company would eliminate nearly 20,000 workers, said this week that if the bill passed, he would be able to hire back some of the workers. And today he accompanies Obama on Air Force One as he flies into Illinois.

At a highway construction site in Springfield, Va., on Wednesday, Obama lauded the connection between the construction workers who could finish the highway in Virginia and the workers at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria who could go back to work. That's the reason, he said, that the jobs created by the bill could "multiply across the economy."

Not everyone is convinced. Rick Doty, president of the United Auto Workers Local 974, which represents thousands of Caterpillar workers, told the Chicago Tribune that Owens is not saying he's going "to rehire U.S. employees or even Peoria employees."

--Johanna Neuman

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Comments () | Archives (3)

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I've lived all over the country but originally come from Peoria, and the question that needs to be asked is not whether it will 'play' in Peoria, but will it 'work' there and everywhere.

So far we have not even seen a plan, just promises of a plan in the making, while the cash register of fear and ineptitude ring in the capital.

I voted for Obama, but its time that he stopped campaigning a little bit and started doing a little more. He may not have experience, but that's a moot point now. Its long past time he got some OJT.

Obama is still campaigning going from one state to another, talking loud and saying the same thing. Someone in his cabinet should tell him there's no need for this because he's president now. Take a break Obama and get off the scene for a while please.

The Cat pres. said later that the passing of Obama's stimulus plan would not mean that the laid-off Cat. workers would return!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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