A few reflections on Barack Obama's first Elkhart visit

May 26, 2016

As Elkhart prepares for one more appearance by President Barack Obama, his first visit to the city as an Illinois senator running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton reveals what has and hasn't changed.

Two days before the Indiana Primary Election, Obama visited Bank Street, talking with residents and shooting some hoops with kids outside Riverview Elementary School before he spoke with me by phone.

Gas prices at this time hovered around $4.50 per gallon. Two months later, Monaco Coach would shutter its Elkhart and Wakarusa plants due to sluggish RV sales and the Great Recession was under way. Chinese currency manipulation was an issue then, as it remains today. McCain and Feingold were the names associated with campaign finance reform two years before the words "Citizens United" would become synonymous with its undoing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Eight years later, area politicians and business leaders debate whether President Obama can claim credit for Elkhart's recovery or if it was all private sector investment and hard work that brought the RV industry back from the brink. The only thing that is certain as we look back at May 2008 is that the future remains uncertain.