BOONE, Iowa — Calling Iowa the state that “gave me a chance,” President Barack Obama tried to define the line between himself and Republican Mitt Romney during a visit Monday to Boone.
Obama took the stage set up under a pavilion at Herman Park, a wooded expanse just south of the downtown, to loud cheers from the crowd of an estimated 2,200 people who spilled out from under the pavilion roof to the roadway.
Obama, dressed in a blue short-sleeved shirt and khaki pants, stood behind a podium with the presidential seal and was flanked by United States and Iowa state flags that hung from the side of the roof. Behind him was a large banner that said “FORWARD” in capital letters with Barackobama.com in smaller letters underneath it.
In a 30-minute speech, the president criticized Romney for not supporting wind energy subsidies, for not supporting stimulus for the automobile industry, for abandoning a health-care program that is similar to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and for proposing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Citing a report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Obama said Romney’s tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000.
“This is not $2,000 to pay off the deficit. This is to give a $250,000 tax cut to people who are making over $3 million,” Obama said as the crowd began to boo.
“They tried to sell us this trickle-down fairy dust before. It did not work then. It won’t work now,” he said to cheers.
It was the first day of a three-day tour of the state which began Monday morning in Council Bluffs and ends Wednesday in the Quad-Cities. In addition to Boone and Council Bluffs, Obama stopped in Missouri Valley and Denison on Monday and was planning to visit the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines immediately after the Boone stop in central Iowa.
“I was really very encouraged to see the response of the people, I was keenly observing the response of the audience,” said 37-year-old Roshan Malik, a sociology student at Iowa State University from Pakistan. “This was awesome.”
Steve Lash, 65, a retired police officer from Knoxville who now lives in Webster City, said he made the trip because he’s never seen a sitting president.
“I think it’s a real honor to meet the very first black president, because it’s a part of history that nobody can ever duplicate,” Nash said. He said Obama “walked into a mess,” and he thought the president has done a “wonderful job.”
The president’s message about Romney’s tax plan resonated, Lash said.
“Anybody who makes $20 million and only pays 14 percent, you know, and those middle-class people who are out there busting their buns are paying a lot more than that,” Lash said. “It bothers me a lot.”
Obama also took a swipe at Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Romney announced the 42-year-old Ryan would be his vice presidential running mate last weekend. Ryan visited the Iowa State Fair on Monday.
Calling him the “ideological leader” of the House Republicans and a “very articulate spokesperson for Governor Romney’s vision,” Obama continued, “That vision is wrong for America.”
Lalonie Bowen, a semiretired resident of Ankeny, said the president needs to talk more about vision, his vision, to win Iowa in November.
“He cares so much about the people, especially the middle class and the low income,” said Bowen, who works part time for a financial planner. “What I think he could do is maybe talk to the people more, give us his vision for the next four years.”
Obama capped off his first day of campaigning in Iowa with a surprise stop at the Iowa State Fair. Thousands of fair-goers crowded along rope lines that blocked off an area of the fairgrounds’ grand concourse to get a glimpse of Obama, who arrived in a caravan that included a large black motor coach emblazoned with the presidential seal. The president’s fair visit included a stop at a beer tent and a pork chop dinner.
Accompanied by former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now Obama’s U.S. agriculture secretary, the president mingled with attendees who decided to forego other fair attractions for a glimpse of Obama, who shook hands, hugged people and posed for pictures. He wore a navy-blue Iowa State Fair baseball cap that he was presented when he arrived at their fairgrounds shortly before 7:30 p.m.