UPDATE: The Barack Obama Iowa fell in love with is back.
“Absolutely, it’s back,” Steve Sovern of Cedar Rapids said Wednesday about the energy and enthusiasm in the Cornell College gymnasium, where the president spoke to about 2,000 people.
Five years ago, Sovern moderated a conversation with the future president before an overflow crowd at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School back in February 2007 when Obama formally entered the presidential race.
He felt the same electricity at Cornell when the president stepped on stage and asked: “Are you fired up?”
That was the question on minds of his supporters until his come-back performance in the second debate the night before.
“Was it awesome, or what?” Cornell junior Rachel Cowell asked as she introduced Obama. “We have to step up today … stand up and raise our voices for Iowa values.
“He fought for all of us. Now we need to fight for him,” she said.
Supporters were holding their breath before the debate, “hoping that the Obama on the stage would be the Obama we knew,” said Peter Bryant of Cedar Rapids.
“That was the Obama we knew” from 2008, said Bryant who cast his first presidential vote in 1964.
He expects the president’s support to continue to grow.
“As we get closer to Election Day and people are beginning to understand what’s at stake, they are taking note of the issues important to them,” Bryant said
But Obama has nothing to offer them, according to a spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign.
“After four years of failed economic policies that have left 23 million Americans struggling for work, President Obama has no new ideas, no vision for the future, and is simply giving up,” said Shawn McCoy of the Romney campaign. “The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer. Mitt Romney has bold new ideas that will cut taxes for middle-class families, create 12 million new jobs with higher take-home pay, and cut spending to put our nation on a course toward a balanced budget.”
Although Sovern said the Obama for America organization is every bit as good, or better, than it was four years ago, supporters conceded the campaign did not have the same energy as in 2008.
“Maybe they don’t demonstrate it as much,” Cortez Davis of Cedar Rapids speculated while waiting for Obama to finish speaking to an overflow crowd of about 800.
“Maybe they don’t act out as much,” Davis said, but Obama supporters never lost their enthusiasm that was so much a part of the 2008 campaign.
“We’ll see the enthusiasm in the voting booth,” David predicted.
However, not all 2008 Obama supporters will cast vote for him this fall. Some went so far as to take out a full-page ad in The Gazette to apologize for their votes four years ago.
“The fact is, Barack Obama’s term in the White House has offered disappointment after disappointment,” they wrote. “It turns out eloquence does not equal competence. We’ll gladly admit we were wrong.”
However, in a 30-minute speech that seemed tailored for his young audience, Obama said he’s counting on Iowans sending him back to the White House.
“We got to do it again,” he said, noting that his presidency started in Iowa with a victory in the 2008 first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses. “If we don’t fight as hard as we can over the next three weeks, it could all be set aside. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
In addition to criticizing Mitt Romney’s math – “Turns out his jobs math is no better than his tax math,” Obama said about campaign promises his challenger made during the debate, the president touched on many of those issues important to his campus audience.
He reminded them of changes made over the past four years to lower the cost of student loans, health care reform that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance, his support for equal pay for equal work and taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.
“I want to put these choices in your hands where they belong,” he said, going on to tell his audience, “Now the choice is up to you.”
In 2008, Iowa showed the nation change was possible, Obama said.
“We got to do it again,” he said. “If we don’t fight as hard as we can over the next three weeks, it could all be set aside.
“That’s what we’re fighting for. You can’t let that happen,” Obama said.
LIVE COVERAGE from throughout Obama's visit: