In Iowa, Obama Accuses Romney Of Distortion

President Obama campaigned Thursday in Iowa, where he delivered his sharpest criticisms yet of Republican rival Mitt Romney. Iowa is one of several states likely to determine the outcome of the November presidential election.

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President Obama campaigned in Iowa yesterday, and delivered his sharpest criticisms yet of Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama was speaking to supporters at the state fairground in Des Moines. He did defend his own record, but the most memorable lines in his speech were those directed at the presumptive Republican nominee.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The president spoke at an exhibition hall at the fairgrounds, filled with some 2,500 supporters. This is the state where his campaign took off after his unexpected victory in the caucuses, back in 2008.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's something about coming to Iowa...

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ...it just gets me going.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It's my home away from home.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Last night, the president looked back at the crisis the nation was going through when he took office. The economy, he said, was a house of cards.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

OBAMA: This was a deep crisis. It didn't happen overnight. And we never thought it was going to be solved overnight. We know we have more work to do. But we also know that the last thing we can afford to do is to return to the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: And that's where he turned his attention to Mitt Romney, whom he called a patriotic American who's raised a wonderful family. And he said Romney should be proud of the success he's had as CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

OBAMA: But...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: OBAMA: But...

(LAUGHTER,CHEERS)

OBAMA: OBAMA: But...

GONYEA: The president said the main goal of firms like Bain Capital is not to create jobs, but to maximize returns for investors.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

OBAMA: Now, that may be the job of somebody who's engaged in corporate buyouts. That's fine. But that's not the job of a president.

(APPLAUSE, WHISTLES)

OBAMA: OBAMA: That's not the president's job.

GONYEA: President Obama seemed to enjoy being back out on the stump and needling his opponent. Just last week, he noted, Romney was in Des Moines for a speech in which he said the president has set off a prairie fire of debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

OBAMA: That's what he said: prairie fire. But, you know, he left out some facts. You know, his speech was more like a cow pie of distortion.

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: In the audience last night was 22-year-old Nathan Baggett, a recent Drake University graduate, who says he has remained a strong supporter of the president over the past four years - but says he has seen others waver.

NATHAN BAGGETT: I mean, as a college student, I've seen how, you know, students that were fired up in 2008 as, you know - particularly, as the national media has mudslinging every day on it, it's easy for people to lose their energy, lose their excitement about it. And seeing this today - seeing some of my peers from my university out here, cheering again for the president, it's pretty - it gets me excited.

GONYEA: This year, polls show that Iowa is up for grabs. So the president's task here is the same as it is in other hotly contested states he carried last time: to get the base fired up, and to do so absent much of the raw enthusiasm that turned out so many supporters four years ago.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines.

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