SANDUSKY, Ohio -- Campaigning by bus through swing state Ohio, President Barack Obama cast his re-election bid as a bet on the American worker yesterday, even as he braced for an unemployment report Friday that will help set battle lines for the hot summer to come.

The monthly unemployment numbers could alter or harden voters' views of Obama's core re-election argument that he pulled the United States back from recession while Republican Mitt Romney embraced policies that led to an economic near-collapse. A weak report could undermine Obama's position, while improvement could help the president -- though concerns about jobs are sure to be a major issue through Election Day.

Obama tellingly chose to start his summer of on-the-road campaigning in two political battleground states that have a rosier economic outlook than some parts of the nation. Both Ohio and Pennsylvania had unemployment rates of 7.3 percent in May, well below the national average of 8.2 percent.

His trip through northern Ohio gave him a post-July 4 splash of Americana: Main streets and U.S. flags, cornfields and fruit stands, community soccer sign-ups and American Legion halls, small children climbing on fathers' shoulders to see the president's bus go by. Obama was greeted kindly wherever he went and bounded through his day, high-fiving the kids and hugging grandmothers.

Romney rolled his own bus tour through six states last month, including the two Obama is visiting this week. And more are sure to come in the next few months for both candidates.

As he kicked off yesterday's 250-mile trip in Maumee, Ohio, Obama said he had "refused to turn my back on communities like this one."

Romney, chiming in from his family vacation in New Hampshire, criticized Obama for hitting the road with "no new answers" on the economy.

The president, speaking at an early 19th-century museum complex dotted with red-white-and-blue bunting and American flags, claimed credit for Ohio's improving economy, especially its rejuvenated automobile industry. The White House said the Obama-backed auto bailout helped dramatically increase sales of Chrysler's Jeep Wrangler and Liberty, made in nearby Toledo.

Today's schedule includes a stop at an elementary school in Poland, Ohio, near Youngstown, followed by a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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