Redford, Michigan (CNN) – President Obama's latest PR blitz pushing his position in the fiscal cliff showdown brought him to a Detroit-area motor plant Monday, where he pledged to a union-heavy crowd that he would not compromise on raising tax rates for high-income earners.
"I am not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks," Obama said, adding, "when they start making a million, or 10 million, or 20 million, you can afford to pay a littler more. They are not too strapped."
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
The 20-minute speech before a group of invite-only attendees appearing to number a few thousand was the most recent in a string of appearances by the president before key constituencies seeking to bolster support for his stance on raising tax rates for high wage earners in the new year.
But the Detroit area appearance – Obama's first trip to Michigan in more than eight months- carried separate significance for union supporters here who are facing the likelihood that Michigan's Republican governor will sign into law so-called "right to work" legislation this week. The law allows workers at unionized companies to not pay dues to their union - thereby severely cutting the funds that give unions their strength.
While version of "right to work" laws currently are on the books in 23 states, Michigan stands to be the most unionized state to pass such legislation. More than 17 percent of workers here belong to a union and the United Auto Workers union is a dominant political force. Proponents of the legislation argue such laws attract more businesses while opponents say the overall effect is to depress bargaining power and wages.
While Obama has said he opposes "right to work" legislation in the past, the president has long been tepid towards union-related issues, perhaps wary of turning off more business friendly supporters of the Democratic Party. But on Monday, he issued more forceful language on the issue to rousing applause.
"What we shouldn't do is take away your rights to bargain for better wages," he said. "These so called right to work laws don't have to do with economics, they have to do with politics."
Still, the thrust of the president's trip centered on the impending fiscal cliff deadline January 1, when, the president warned the crowd that "every body is going to see their income taxes go up" absent a deal.
In recent days, the president has made similar remarks before small business owners, middle class workers, and factory workers in Philadelphia – part of a White House strategy to harness the same groundswell of support that carried him to victory on Election Day, even as he engages in off-the-record meetings with House Speaker John Boehner – most recently at the White House Sunday afternoon.
As he has in the past, the president struck a more conciliatory tone Monday when it came to finding consensus on deficit reduction, though offered no details.
"I've said I will work with Republicans for economic growth, job creating, and reducing our deficits," he said. "I understand people have a lot of different views. I am willing to compromise a little bit."
While Republican leaders have criticized the president for adopting a campaign-like posture as the fiscal cliff deadline looms, White House officials insist the president's hand is strengthened dramatically by tapping into the more-than 60% of the electorate who, according to exit polling on Election Day, back tax hikes for households making more than $250,000.
Moreover, a string of recent polls suggest Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame should Washington fail to reach a compromise before the January 1 deadline – an advantage the White House believes is thanks in part to the president's public outreach efforts on the issue over the last month. This, the president has said, is more valuable than sitting down with Boehner before Republicans make further concessions.
"I don't think the issue right now has to do with sitting in a room," Obama told Bloomberg News last week.
Obama's Detroit appearance Monday was timed to coincide with Daimler's announcement that it plans to invest $100 million to expand production in the United States. The new investment will result in Daimler making all the key components of its heavy duty trucks in its Detroit-area facility going forward. Touting the announcement, Obama said the move will create "115 good union jobs."
"That is great for the plant, it's great for the community," Obama said. "But it's also good for American manufacturing."