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Obama: America about hard work, not handouts

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — President Barack Obama, promoting his opportunity-for-all economic agenda in a state that helped him get elected, said Wednesday that "America is not about handouts" but people do expect their shot at success. Following up on his State of the Union address, he defended the government's role in ensuring fairness and rejected criticisms about class warfare.

"There's no reason why we can't restore the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well," Obama said from a manufacturing plant. He said most people don't have unrealistic ambitions about their economic future but they do want to own a home, save for retirement and "achieve that small measure of an American dream."

Obama spoke at the start of a three-day tour of politically crucial states to sell his 2012 economic policy goals and pitch his presidency to a divided public. Fresh from his address to a joint session of Congress, Obama sought to boost his ideas for more manufacturing on American soil by showcasing a conveyor belt component manufacturer in Iowa and an Intel plant in Arizona.

Running for re-election against Republicans who have questioned his economic stewardship, the president said he wants to restore the basic promise of America, "and it starts with manufacturing." Inside the factory, speaking to roughly 300 workers and guests, Obama was flanked by machinery and a banner with his latest slogan: "America Built to Last."

Presidential travel after the State of the Union is commonplace, allowing presidents to temporarily bask in the afterglow of their prime-time performances, milking their message before key constituencies.

Obama will highlight energy security today in Nevada and Colorado and wrap up Friday by pushing education and training proposals at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.