Obama takes on Romney's private-sector record, rallies supporters, in Des Moines

May 25, 2012

President Obama is becoming a familiar face in Iowa again. Yesterday, he made his third visit to the state this year, which he won in 2008.
Mr. Obama discussed renewable energy at a manufacturing plant in Newton before rallying about 2500 supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

If Mr. Obama’s job four years ago was to woo voters, this time the message is more like “I Still Need You.”

"This election’s gonna be even closer than the last one. And by the way the last one was close. People don’t remember, it was close," he says.

"We’re gonna have to contend with even more negative ads, we've got these Super PACs, and shadowy special interests - like the ones you've been bombarded with, you guys just got hit, here in Iowa. We’ll have to overcome more cynicism and nastiness and just some plain foolishness, even more than we did the last time."

Much of the speech focused on jobs and the economy. Mr. Obama says he wants to cut military spending, and use the savings to pay down the deficit, and invest in education, research and infrastructure. He didn’t miss the opportunity to remind the crowd of a remark by Republican challenger Mitt Romney when Romney visited the fairgrounds last year.

"Of course the worldview Romney gained as a financial CEO explains why the last time he visited these fairgrounds, he famously declared that, 'Corporations are people,'" the president said as the crowd booed.

Romney made the much-derided comment after an exchange with a fairgoer regarding his position on corporate taxes. President Obama says he believes risk-takers and investors should be rewarded, but the president ought to focus on creating opportunities for everyone.

"Bigger profits haven’t lead to better jobs, and you can’t solve that problem if you can’t even see that it’s a problem," he says.

Ground Game

The visit came a little more than a week after Romney’s last trip to Iowa. A spokeswoman says the Romney campaign is opening a Des Moines headquarters very soon, and preparing to launch the biggest ground game ever for a GOP nominee.

University of Northern Iowa Political Scientist Donna Hoffman says as the president has an edge right now.

"The Obama campaign is a little ahead of Romney with infrastructure and ground game and that’s especially true with Iowa, they have staffers, already doing canvassing," Hoffman says.

But she says visits like yesterdays’ are key to generating excitement among voters. And that excitement can pay off in volunteer support. The crowd heard several pleas from Obama campaign leaders to sign up to knock on doors and make phone calls on his behalf.

Of course, it was an easy crowd in which to make that pitch, full of supporters like Laura Bertelsen of Winterset.

"He’s a terrific speaker. He talks about the values we hold as Democrats. And it was just a thrill," Bertelsen said.

Her husband, Chris Bertelsen, usually votes Republican – but he says he’s still making up his mind.

"We usually cancel each other out, but not always," he says. 

So what's he thinking right now? Too early to tell, he says.

And that's just it: it’s too early for a lot of people to tell what they’ll do in November. And those are voters the nominees will be fighting for in Iowa, and other swing states, in the months to come.