Obama Shifts to Populist Mode, Pushes Jobs in Ohio

Jan. 21: President Obama and Vice President Biden acknowledge mayors before a White House address.

Jan. 21: President Obama and Vice President Biden acknowledge mayors before a White House address.  (AP)

President Obama will travel to the Cleveland suburbs Friday -- the second leg of his "White House to Main Street" jobs tour -- where he will meet and talk with local employees and visit a sporting goods factory to see the production of baseball and football helmets. 

Considering the mood in the country, his aides might recommend that Obama wear one of those helmets. 

The president planned to use his visit Friday to Elyria, Ohio, to test-drive an aggressive populist push on jobs, a top concern for voters across the country as the White House begins a message shift heading into fall elections expected to be difficult for Democrats.

The town's local paper, the Chronicle-Telegram, asked residents what they wanted to say to the president when he visits and the many letters received ranged from the desperate to the frustrated. 

"Mr. President, what are you gonna do to help us people that are hard-working, middle-class people when these banks are telling us to file for bankruptcy or foreclose on our homes?" Jared Conchour asked. 

"Please stay out of Medicare funding and my pocketbook. Quit trying to buy votes for your disastrous health care plan. Concentrate instead on the economy/jobs," resident Ted Bansek wrote. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said before the visit that the administration is hearing the "anger and frustration" about the economy, in the recent Massachusetts Senate race and elsewhere. 

"The president heard and saw it last month when he traveled to Pennsylvania. He'll hear it in Ohio," he said.  

Lorain County, home of Elyria, has an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent -- up 2.5 percent from 2008. Local residents are concerned that more job cuts are on their way if health care reform legislation passes. Local company Invacare, the world's largest manufacturer of home medical products, says a tax on medical devices in the legislation could result in up to 1,300 jobs lost in the area. 

White House officials say the president will speak to the citizens of Elyria directly about their anxieties and concerns. 

A year into office, Obama has his policy plate full, but the White House is touting job creation as a major agenda item for 2010. On Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama told employees at the Department of Commerce in Washington that their work in supporting businesses is essential to increasing nation's employment numbers. 

"Every innovation you spur here, every business you help, and dream you nurture means a livelihood for some family out there. A source of income for a community, another building block for our economy," she said. 

"This isn't just about right now -- your work doesn't just strengthen economy this year or this decade but laying foundation for economic prosperity for generations to come." 

The president traveled to the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania on Dec. 4 to hear from residents there and concerns they had about the economy and to address his ideas about jump-starting private sector hiring and getting Americans back to work. 

"We have to continue to create an atmosphere, through different proposals that the President has laid out to create that environment for private sector hiring," Gibbs said. 

This will be the president's second visit to Lorain County. He made a campaign stop there in 2008. 

Fox News' Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.