"I asked for the keys," the president joked in his speech to union members and an assemblage of dignitaries. "They didn't give them to me."
Ah, well. Even presidents can't get everything. That's why Mr. Obama is having to remind Americans of how far the US has come in the year since Lehman Brothers' collapse set off a financial panic in the midst of an especially severe recession.
His message to the autoworkers was simple: We've come a long way because of steps my administration has taken. Most Americans don't feel the improvement yet because there's a lot more to do. But if you keep supporting me, I can do it.
"As long as you've still got an ounce of fight left in you, I've got a ton of fight left in me," he told the cheering crowd.
With just a little more than three years until Election Day (sigh), that's not a bad message. But as the threat of financial collapse recedes, it makes it that much harder for the president to create coalitions that will advance his ambitious agenda of universal healthcare, financial reform, and educational improvement (not to mention his promises to curb federal spending).
The Chevy Cruze, which will come to the US in 2010, is General Motors' great hope for beating back the invasion of small-car imports. That's a tall order. But it's nothing like the political challenge facing Obama.