President Barack Obama made an aggressive play to claim credit for rescuing the iconic US auto industry, but admitted that tough economic times were clouding his reelection bid.
Obama declared in Washington that "the US auto industry is back," revving up his drive to turn his successful bailout of the sector into votes in key midwestern battleground states in November's election.
Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile spelled out a blunt reelection message for his boss at a fundraising event in Texas, saying: "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
Both men used the federally supervised bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler and their subsequent rebound as evidence of successful policies, in the knowledge their bid for a second White House term is complicated by economic conditions.
The vice president boiled down Obama's State of the Union message into some pithy sound bites at an event in Fort Worth expected to raise more than $150,000 dollars for the reelection campaign.
Biden hailed Obama as a champion of America's hard-pressed middle classes as they emerge from the deepest recession since the 1930s and said the president had kept his promise to pull US troops out of Iraq.
"But the best way to sum up the job the president has done --- if you need a real shorthand -- Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," Biden said, adding that he was passing on a line suggested to him by a supporter.
Biden also suggested that the bitter race for the Republican nomination was helping his and Obama's chances in November's presidential election.
"For the first time, the Republicans are not hiding the ball. ... They are saying what they believe, God love them. They are not even pretending."
"This is going to be one heck of a race. I think we are doing better and better every day, ... in no small part because they are making it clear what they are for."
Obama earlier made a more prosaic attempt to claim credit for the auto bailout, as he toured a selection of gleaming new hybrid vehicles at the Washington auto show.
The bailout plan featured prominently in his annual address to Congress last week, along with the US special forces raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader bin Laden last year and bolstered Obama's national security credentials.
"The fact that GM is back, number one, I think shows the kind of turnaround that's possible when it comes to American manufacturing," said the president, who favors using government to create conditions for jobs growth.
"It's good to remember that ... there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die. Because of folks coming together, we are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world."
Obama's comments appeared to be a swipe at Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney over his initial criticism of the idea of shoring up iconic auto giants General Motors and Chrysler with federal funds.
The president argues that his federal funding and bankruptcy plan for the two firms, inherited from former president George W. Bush, saved the US auto industry.
Romney, apparently seeking to capitalize on public fatigue with bailouts, argued that the firms should have gone through bankruptcy -- which they later did -- without a prior cash injection which eventually hit $82 billion.
Obama later admitted that prevailing conditions of high unemployment and continuing economic blight made his bid for a second term a complicated one.
"Given the difficulties that a lot of folks are still going through it's not surprising that they're feeling doubtful, even if we're moving in the right direction," Obama said in a fundraising event in Washington.
"This is going to be a tough race because of that economic reality, but not because of the ideas of the other side."