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In Iowa, Obama Accuses Romney Of Distortion


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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.



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.



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.


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


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.



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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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