IOWA CITY, Iowa - President Barack Obama touted his plans on a wide-range of issues, including renewable energy and education, in making his case for a second term at an Iowa City rally Friday evening.
The president also focused his remarks on the middle class, saying his policies would boost that segment of the population and small businesses. Republicans led by his opponent, Mitt Romney, offer one solution, Obama said: Cut taxes for the wealthy.
"I honestly believe this is the clearest choice we've had in my lifetime," he said of the election. "... It's a choice between two fundamentally different visions of our future."
Obama spoke for 30 minutes to an estimated 8,000 people on the University of Iowa campus. The crowd was full of college-age people, and Obama pushed hard for them to register to vote. "And if you do, we will finish what we started," he said.
The president was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and their wives, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. In brief remarks, the vice president took on Republicans, saying they were betting against the American people. "America is not on the decline," Biden said. "America is on the rise."
It was a rare campaign stop that included the president, vice president and their spouses. That they came to Iowa City the day after Obama accepted his party's nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention – following a stop in New Hampshire earlier Friday –underscored Iowa's importance this election.
It was Obama's eighth Iowa trip this year, including two last week. Romney was in northwest Iowa Friday, and his running mate, Paul Ryan, was in Iowa earlier this week. Iowa is one of the smallest of the roughly 10 swing states. But the path to victory may come down to a handful of states, and Iowa's six electoral votes would be vital, said Tim Hagle, a UI political science professor active in Republican politics. Obama carried Iowa by 9 percentage points in 2008, but polls indicate he and Romney are essentially tied. "As long as Iowa stays an important part of both candidates' calculations and stays, based on their internal polling, a swing state, then we may see a lot of them," Hagle said.
The crowd in Democratic-heavy Iowa City was more than happy to greet the president. Lines to get inside the tightly secured Pentecrest, in the heart of the UI campus, formed several hours before the presidential party arrived and stayed through a mid-afternoon rain shower. The crowd sent the president off with a load chant of "Four more years! Four more years!"
Obama hit on some issues important to Iowa. He said fuel standards and the use of renewable energy have increased in his term and he wants to invest more in wind, solar and clean-coal energy.
Romney opposes extending a wind energy tax credit that Iowa's growing wind industry considers essential.
Surrounded by university buildings, Obama also said education "is the ticket to a middle-class life," and said he would raise education standards and support more college aid in the form of loans and grants.
Obama's Iowa City visit came the same day the Labor Department issued a report widely seen as disappointing. The unemployment rate decreased from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, but that's primarily because more people stopped looking for work. Also, job growth was slow.
Obama echoed comments made by former President Bill Clinton this week that it will take more than a few years to recover from the Great Recession.
"I will not pretend that the path I'm offering is quick or easy," Obama said.
The president moved from issue to issue, also touching on the differences between him and Romney on tax cuts, job creation, the deficit and foreign policy.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Michelle Obama, and then the Bidens, joined him on stage. They then mingled with the crowd for 15 minutes.