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Obama Warns Iowans GOP Ideas Aren't Solutions


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


And I'm David Greene, good morning.

President Obama will rack up more miles today on his campaign bus trip in Iowa. He is traveling east, drawing sharp contrasts with his Republican challenger. GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan was also in Iowa yesterday. He spoke at the Iowa State Fair before heading west to Colorado.

The two men are traveling in different directions, and not just on the map, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The sky was gray when President Obama touched down on the western edge of Iowa yesterday. Not long after he started speaking, though, at an outdoor rally in Council Bluffs, the clouds began to part.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: See, the sun is coming out.


HORSLEY: Ordinarily, that would be a good thing. But in this drought-ridden summer, many Iowans might have preferred a good downpour. Mr. Obama dropped by the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, where the lack of rainfall is expected to cut this year's corn and soybean yields by at least a third. He announced plans for the federal government to buy up pork, lamb and chicken from struggling livestock producers.

But the president said what farmers really need, in addition to rain, is for Congress to pass a farm bill.

OBAMA: We've got to be there for them. Not just today, but tomorrow and every day until this drought passes because we are Americans. That's what we do. We take care of each other. And when tough times strike our neighbors, we give them a hand.


HORSLEY: The president's bus rolled east, past miles of cornfields with stalks baked brown by the heat. The Iowa landscape is also dotted now with windmills, enough to power one in five Iowa homes. Mr. Obama is celebrating that as a home-grown energy achievement.

OBAMA: America generates more than twice as much electricity from wind than when I took office. And the wind...


HORSLEY: Wind energy is also a sizeable business in Iowa, employing six to seven thousand people here. Mr. Obama warns some of those jobs could be in jeopardy if a wind power tax credit is allowed to expire, as Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney has proposed.

The tax credit is one of a number of differences Mr. Obama is highlighting this week, with Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan. Many Iowans, like Laurie Riemer, are just beginning to get acquainted with Romney's vice presidential pick.

LAURIE RIEMER: I know absolutely nothing about him. I've never even heard of him.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama is eager to fill in the blanks about Ryan. At a rally Riemer attended yesterday, the president called Ryan an ideological leader of Republicans in Congress.

RIEMER: That doesn't enthuse me very much. The Republican administration before Obama's is what maybe got us into some of this economic distress in the first place.

HORSLEY: Ryan, like Romney, has been an outspoken advocate for limited government and deregulation. But as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has had to be much more specific than Romney about the parts of government he'd cut. For Obama supporter Terry Krabbe, that's been an eye-opener.

TERRY KRABBE: I've been reading the last couple days. And what I'm reading, I really don't like. I just think he's making a big mistake by trying to cut Pell Grants and Medicare. Pell Grants is a big plus for these kids. I can't believe they're even looking at it.

HORSLEY: Ryan's track record in Congress makes him a hero to some and a target for others. The congressman faced some serious hecklers yesterday when he spoke at the Iowa State Fair. Mr. Obama got a friendlier welcome when he showed up at the fair last night. A vendor tried to tempt the president with cinnamon rolls, but Mr. Obama's focus was elsewhere.

OBAMA: I'm saving my space, I think, for a pork chop on a stick.

HORSLEY: He was not disappointed. After shaking hands with a long line of well-wishers, Mr. Obama met president-elect Greg Lear of the Iowa Pork Producers, who was waiting with a Styrofoam plate.

GREG LEAR: Got a pair of Iowa chops. Don't come much better.

OBAMA: Absolutely. Hey, everybody who's over 21, you've got to buy a beer.


HORSLEY: Mr. Obama ordered a round of drinks to wash down the pork chops, prompting some in the crowd to chant: four more beers.

Even on a cool fair evening, though, the summer's drought was not forgotten. The Bud Light vendor gave Mr. Obama a T-shirt that read: Save Water, Drink Beer.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.