Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Working to Hold Iowa Votes ; 3-Day Bus Campaign Combines with Powers of Presidential Action

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Working to Hold Iowa Votes ; 3-Day Bus Campaign Combines with Powers of Presidential Action

Article excerpt

Iowa was the state whose primary gave Barack Obama his first big boost in the 2008 campaign. Now he is back campaigning across Iowa, seen by both sides as a potentially vital swing state.

This prairie state is the place where his unlikely bid for the presidency began. But now it is 2012, and the big question for President Barack Obama is whether, four years after that historic run, Iowa can do for him what it did in 2008.

Midway through a three-day bus tour in which he was traveling from the Nebraska border through windmill farms and dried-out cornfields east toward Illinois, Mr. Obama was trying hard to reignite that fire, using the considerable arsenal at his disposal.

He was using the executive reach of the presidency: He began his trip on Monday announcing $170 million for aid to farmers and ranchers afflicted by the drought. He was using the natural props that this state has always provided for the legions of politicians who flock here: posing for a photo with the Iowa State Fair pageant queen and loudly demanding his helping of "pork chop on a stick."

(He got two on Monday evening, but alas, they were on a paper plate instead of a stick, and no one remembered to supply the president with utensils, leaving him to wail plaintively: "Someone's got to have a knife and fork!")

And he was using his own well-known gifts as an orator to try to get the flame going again. "The centerpiece of Mr. Romney's entire economic plan is to give another $5 trillion tax cut," mostly to the rich, Mr. Obama told a campaign audience of around 800 here on Tuesday. "Understand, this is not asking you to pay more taxes to reduce our deficit, or to help kids get an education, or rebuild some roads -- it's asking you to pay more to give an extra tax break to people making $250,000 or more a year."

The president mixed campaign rallies with tete-a-tetes with local business owners. At Coffee Connection in Knoxville, Iowa, Mr. Obama even talked with a Republican, the cafe's owner, Mark Raymie. (A campaign aide told amused reporters afterward that "we don't party- ID people when we go to local establishments.")

He chatted with patrons of the coffee shop about White House beer -- brewed on the grounds at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- and when one man showed an interest, the president sent out to his bus, Ground Force One, for a bottle. Then he wrote an excuse slip for a woman who was going to be late for work because of her presidential shoulder-rubbing.

It remains anyone's guess whether Mr. Obama can replicate the magic of 2008, and to become a two-term president he dearly needs Iowa. A swing state, it has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, though its booming farm economy has been hurt by the drought.

Mr. Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, sent his new running mate, Representative Paul D. …

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