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Obama touts benefits of auto bailout as debate looms

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally at the Henry Maier Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 22, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally at the Henry Maier Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 22, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama sought on Saturday to sustain momentum from Vice President Joe Biden's strong debate showing by touting the benefits of one of his signature actions, the rescue of the U.S. auto industry, as he prepared for his next debate with Republican Mitt Romney.

"We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way."

The president will drop from view for several days to prepare for his second debate with Romney on Tuesday. By focusing on the health of the auto industry, currently benefiting from strong sales, Obama is reminding voters he came to the industry's rescue. Romney had opposed government help for automakers.

Obama is hoping to build on Biden's confident performance at the vice presidential debate on Thursday after his own listless debate performance last week gave Romney a sharp boost in opinion polls. He meets the Massachusetts governor for the second of three debates on Tuesday evening in a town-hall format.

In his address, Obama highlighted trade agreements that helped promote sales of U.S. autos abroad. Romney has called the Obama administration's record on trade weak and promised to wage much more aggressive campaigns to open markets abroad to U.S. goods and services.

"I want to see more cars on the road in places like South Korea imported from Detroit and Toledo and Chicago," Obama added.

Obama also said that "after 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and light trucks will average almost 55 miles per gallon - nearly double what they get today."

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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