ELKHART, Indiana (CNN) - Seeking to rekindle last year's election magic, President Obama traded the beltway for the heartland Monday, hitting the road to make the case for his controversial $800 billion stimulus package in a part of the country particularly hard hit by the economic downturn.
Addressing a raucous, campaign-style town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana, Obama warned that the road to economic recovery would take years, and that a failure to pass an effective stimulus plan quickly could result in an "economic crisis as deep and as dire as the Great Depression."
The downturn could become a "crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse," Obama told a packed high school gymnasium. "We can't afford to wait."
Elkhart has seen its unemployment rate triple to more than 15 percent over the past year. The city's jobless rate is roughly double the national average; a number of the nation's top recreational vehicle makers are located in Elkhart, and hundreds of workers at those plants have lost their jobs.