An Elkhart Primer
By Garance Franke-Ruta
Population: 53,000 people in 16,000 residential units.
Unemployment rate: The unemployment rate in Elkhart County has more than tripled over the past year -- from 4.7 percent in December 2007 to 15.3 percent this past December, according to figures provided by the White House. The rate in the city of Elkhart is closer to 18 percent, according to the town's mayor.
"Everyone knows that with an 18 percent unemployment rate in the city of Elkhart, we need this stimulus package," Mayor Dick Moore told Bloomberg.
2008 presidential vote: Elkhart County cast the majority of its votes with Obama rival John McCain, who won 39,396 to 31,398, according to the Elkhart County Election Board. The city's mayor, Moore, is a Democrat, and Obama's performance represented a considerable improvement over that of the previous Democratic contender. In 2004, the Bush-Cheney ticket got 42,967 votes in Elkhart, to 17,966 for Kerry-Edwards.
Past Obama travel: Obama first visited Elkhart in May 2008 (read Post writer Shailagh Murray's pool report here) -- the first time a presidential candidate had swung through since Bobby Kennedy 40 years earlier -- then revisited it in August 2008 to give a speech.
Local industry: Known as the RV Capital of the World, Elkhart is heavily reliant on a manufacturing sector now in steep decline. The recreational vehicle and mobile home industry has been hit especially hard, thanks to high gas prices, the credit crunch, and declining disposable income over the past year. Companies sited in the City of Elkhart include: Bennington Marine, the Damon Corporation, Four Winds, Hy-Line, Keystone, Monaco, Skyline, Sun Valley, and Travel Supreme.
In October, The New York Times called the city "the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy" in the story, "As Industries Dry Up, Frustration and Despair."
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February 9, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , Political Geography 101
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