Obama loses luster in Iowa


Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa

The Iowa magic that launched Barack Obama to the presidency four years ago has all but faded.

Soured by the direction of the nation and its economy, Iowa has drifted away from Obama since his 2008 caucus victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton made him the Democratic front- runner. And though he carried the state in the general election by a comfortable margin that year, polls this year have shown voters narrowly preferring Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who plans to wage his own major effort in Iowa.

Today, the Democrat who emerged Cinderella-like with a hope-filled message four years ago is sharply attacking Romney’s economic credentials and his ability to grasp voters’ everyday concerns.

Obama’s visit Thursday to blue-collar Newton, Iowa, and his Des Moines campaign rally near where Romney once declared that corporations are people, underscored the president’s own vulnerability with working-class voters and his effort to identify with the middle class.

Though offering only six of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, how Iowa voters ultimately judge Obama is expected to be an important factor in the race.

“Last time, it was a lot more exciting. It was a new thing,” said Nancy Bobo, a Des Moines Obama volunteer and one of his earliest Iowa backers in 2008. “Today, we’re all just very serious.”

Obama was visiting a former Maytag Corp. appliance plant Thursday in Newton, a town devastated by the plant’s closing in 2005. The plant now houses TPI Composites, a wind-turbine blade manufacturer.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has made the struggling economy the centerpiece of his campaign.

But Obama can point to comparatively low 5.1 percent unemployment in Iowa, where stable financial services and strong agriculture sectors buoyed the economy while manufacturing has struggled to rebound.

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