Obama Tells Iowa Voters He'll Help The Middle Class

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are hitting the campaign trail hard this week. On Tuesday, the president was campaigning in Iowa — the state that helped to launch his White House bid in 2008. He told supporters in Iowa he wants a second term in order to finish what he started.

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Now that the Independence Day holiday week is done, both presidential candidates have full schedules. Mitt Romney is in Houston, Texas today. He will address a convention of the NAACP. Yesterday, Romney was in Colorado, one of the most hotly contested swing states.

President Obama stopped yesterday in the state that helped to launch his bid in 2008.

And that's where NPR's Scott Horsley begins our coverage.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It was his win in the Iowa caucuses four years ago that put Barack Obama on a path to the White House. And the first place he campaigned in Iowa was Cedar Rapids. Yesterday, the president was back there, telling supporters he wants a second term in order to finish what he started.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're going to have two choices in this election. And one choice is to take us down a path of top-down economics, and an approach that says if we do good for the folks at the very top, somehow everybody benefits.

CROWD: No way. No.

OBAMA: And my vision which says, you know, when we grow best, it's because our middle class is doing well.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING FROM CROWD)

OBAMA: And everybody who's fighting to get into the middle class.

HORSLEY: The president is trying to illustrate that choice this week by focusing on taxes. The tax cuts that President George W. Bush championed a decade ago are due to expire at the end of this year. Mr. Obama wants Congress to extend most of those cuts for another year, saving the typical middle-class family about $2,000. At the same time, Mr. Obama would allow some of the cuts to expire; those on income above a quarter-million dollars a year.

OBAMA: This has nothing to do with me wanting to punish success. We love folks getting rich. I hope Malia and Sasha, you know, go out there, you know, if that's what they want to do, that's great.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible)

OBAMA: But I do want to make sure that everybody else gets that chance as well.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama says the extra tax revenue from the wealthy - about $850 billion over a decade - could help to pay for more college grants and other programs that benefit the middle class.

Polls show most Americans support higher taxes on the wealthy - that may be why Republicans are reluctant to separate the issue from popular middle class tax cuts.

Frieda Howe of Central City, Iowa says the rich can afford to pay more. She insists that's not what Mitt Romney has called the politics of envy.

FRIEDA HOWE: I'm not into class warfare. I think it's great that people make money. I just think they ought to be taxed a little more, that's all.

HORSLEY: Duane Hughes agrees. He's retired after 38 years with the Cargill Company. Hughes also served as a Marine in Vietnam.

DUANE HUGHES: I think we all got to share the load. You know, when you get one group of people, you know, that have more than others, and we need to share where we can and help them out. We do it when there's a disaster. Americans pull together when they need to pull together.

HORSLEY: When Hughes talks about a natural disaster, he might be thinking of the floods that ravaged this area four years ago. So far this year, the problem is far too little rain. Still, Iowa as a whole is doing pretty well, with an unemployment rate of just 5.1 percent, well below the national average.

Hughes knows things are tougher in other parts of the country, but he says people have to be patient.

HUGHES: I think this is the greatest country in the world. And I think it'll keep being that. too, as long as we work together, you know, and try to solve the problems that we've got. It can't be just the president's burden. It's everybody's burden, you know, to try to make things better.

HORSLEY: Iowa's relatively strong economy should be a plus for the president, and the Obama campaign has been actively organizing in this swing state for months now.

Still, Mr. Obama told supporters in Cedar Rapids, he's not taking anything for granted.

OBAMA: This is going to be a close election.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah.

OBAMA: But I have so much...

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING AND CHEERING FROM CROWD)

OBAMA: I have so much confidence whenever I come to Iowa.

HORSLEY: After all, he says, this is the state that gave him a chance when no one else would.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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