Michael Barone

The aging electorate of the Rust Belt remains Democratic, and these counties voted 56 to 42 percent for Barack Obama. But that means that they were only 3 percent more Democratic than the national average.

The polling data suggests that Obama is not running as strong in the Rust Belt counties this year. The bus tour was undoubtedly aimed at pushing his numbers up.

But he seems to have been left with little to say. No wonder he resorted to making jokes about his family and adding, "People've been commenting: I need to gain some weight."

As if to compensate, he ate some grits -- a staple once you get an hour or so south of Washington, but not so much up north.

But what else could he talk about? Certainly not the Environmental Protection Agency's rules shutting down coal-fired electric plants. Nor his decision blocking the Keystone oil pipeline.

He could hail the development of fracking in the region's Marcellus shale natural gas formation in the region, except for the fact that regulators in his administration seem intent on shutting it down.

He could repeat his calls for "investment" in education, but even if you don't regard that as a political payoff to the teacher unions, the dividends are going to be a long time coming in.

And calls for investment in infrastructure may lead people to recall his chuckling admission that there are no shovel-ready projects, thanks to regulatory and legal roadblocks.

The uncomfortable fact is that Obama doesn't have a convincing economic story to tell. The recovery summer promised for 2010 and for 2011 and again for 2012 has yet to arrive.

Obama needs majorities in the Rust Belt counties to carry Ohio and Pennsylvania again. But last week's bus tour shows he's having difficulty in this historically Democratic territory.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM