WATERLOO, Iowa – He avoids the State Fair bumper cars, speaks to smaller groups, and makes fewer promises than he did in 2008.
Four years after Iowa propelled President Barack Obama to the White House, he needs the state more than ever, but a tour through his old campaign stomping grounds this week revealed a much different political climate – and a much different candidate – than the Iowa and the Obama of four years ago.
The crowds are smaller and his motorcade is larger than when he beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa and took a huge step toward becoming his party’s nominee.
The economy in Iowa is rougher now and even the weather is worse in the drought-hit state.
Enthusiasm for Obama – still high among Democrats – is wavering among the independents and Republicans who formed part of the coalition that got him first elected.
Obama’s three-day swing through Iowa was his longest campaign trip in one state so far this year. He spoke wistfully about how his life had changed since he was a comparably unknown candidate seeking the highest office in the land.
“The last time I went to the State Fair, Secret Service let me do the bumper cars. … I wasn’t president yet, so I could do that,” he said to laughter at a campaign event in Council Bluffs on Monday. “But not this time.”
When he made it to the fair in Des Moines later that day, he wasn’t allowed to get anywhere near the rides, though he did make a beeline for the Bud Light stand, where he bought beer for himself and a few bystanders.
Beer was a common theme throughout the tour. Much to the delight of the crowds, he told nearly every group he addressed that he had had a beer and pork chops at the fair.
“He’s a real person. His whole family – everybody can relate to him,” said Jan Bilsten, 57, a Democrat from Cedar Falls. (Reuters)