Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Obama's search for '08 Iowa love - Politico

President Barack Obama and first lady Michele Obama arrive for a campaign rally Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Davenport, Iowa. | AP Photo

The Iowa political terrain helped solidify Obama's 2008 primary campaign. | AP Photo

DAVENPORT, Iowa â€" There were no bumper cars or fried Twinkies, but there were chants of “four more years” â€" and, at one stop, “four more beers” â€" as President Barack Obama tried this week to rekindle the excitement here that carried him to victory four years ago.

He was among familiar faces and friendly strangers on the political terrain that helped solidify his 2008 primary campaign. He met with farmers, teachers and business owners, college students and stay-at-home parents. Four years ago, they caucused for him, voted for him, knocked on doors for him. Now, his campaign hopes, they’ll do it all again.

But he came here at a moment when both campaigns traded hope and change for attack and ridicule.

The president on Wednesday assailed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for having a budget plan that “ends Medicare as we know it,” and said they were attacking his own changes to the popular entitlement program out of desperation. “They are just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks,” he said in Dubuque.

And, after avoiding the controversy for more than a day, he defended Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion Tuesday that Romney and his fellow Republicans are “going to put y’all back in chains” by letting Wall Street write its own rules.

Biden was saying “you, consumers, the American people, will be a lot worse off if we repeal these laws as the other side is suggesting,” Obama told People magazine. “In no sense was he trying to connote something other than that.”

The president even joked in a few speeches about Romney’s family road trip with his dog Seamus. Obama tweaked Romney for saying he doubts a car can be powered by a windmill on the roof. “Now, I don’t know if he’s actually tried that,” Obama said. “I know he’s had other things on his car.”

While the punches and counter-punches dominated the news from the president’s trip, Obama tried to focus on the importance of Iowa to him and to his campaign.

“It was on your front porches and in some of your backyards where our movement for change started. We spent a lot of time in Iowa, and I felt like an adopted son of Iowa,” he said Monday in Boone.

“We took bus tours all throughout the state â€" although I’ve got to admit the bus wasn’t as nice as the one I’ve got now. And we went to school gyms and family farms and small businesses all across the state.”

Though Obama won Iowa by nine points in 2008, he and Romney are tied in recent polls. But in hopes of bringing back the mojo of that campaign â€" and boosting his numbers in this one â€" the president’s reelection team worked to recreate the same kinds of moments he had here in 2007 and 2008.

“This is where the journey began five years ago, and it is a place where people across the state believe in the president, just as they believed in his candidacy before anyone else did,” said Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign’s traveling press secretary.

Iowa is “a special place,” she added, not just for the president but for first lady Michelle Obama, who joined her husband on the campaign trail here four years ago. She did so again Wednesday for campaign stops in Dubuque and Davenport, recounting the first family’s August 2007 visit to the Iowa State Fair and a crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to Malia Obama in Pella.

The president enjoyed being back, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in a briefing aboard the press pool’s bus. “He’s in a great mood. He loves being out on the road. He loves being in Iowa. On the bus, you can just feel his energy, and it’s real fun to be out here with him.”

As Obama tried to bond with Iowa, the Romney campaign also attempted to stake claim to the state. Ryan visited the state fair Monday to counterprogram the first day of the president’s bus tour.

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