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Obama's Iowa Hosts Say They'll Pray For Him, But They Won't Vote For Him

President Obama walks with members of the Heil family as he arrives to deliver remarks on wind power at the Heil Family Farm in Haverhill, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Jim Watson
AFP/Getty Images
President Obama walks with members of the Heil family as he arrives to deliver remarks on wind power at the Heil Family Farm in Haverhill, Iowa, on Tuesday.

Iowans are famously nice — so nice, it seems, they'll let you hold a campaign event on their property even if they won't vote for you.

Hours after President Obama paid a visit to a central Iowa farm Tuesday afternoon, the farm owner's adult son issued a statement not exactly in line with the Obama campaign's talking points.

Jarret Heil, farmer Jeff Heil's son, calls the president's visit "truly an honor," and describes Obama as "gracious, personable and very respectful."

But then his statement takes a turn:

"As the milestone that it is for our community with the President's visit, it is important to not get caught up in the President's glamorous re-election words and remember President Obama's first term record and rhetoric does not represent Middle America, entrepreneurs, small business owners and farmers," Heil writes.

Jarret Heil, 31, lives about half a mile from his father's farm in rural Haverhill, Iowa, and works on the farm part time. He's a registered Republican, a supporter of Mitt Romney, and, since 2010, the Marshall County treasurer.

He's also a former staffer for Iowa Republicans Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Tom Latham.

Obama was at the Heil farm primarily to tout his support for tax credits that benefit the wind energy industry. Romney, in contrast, has accused the president of living in "an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy."

Jarret Heil
/ Courtesy Heil
Courtesy Heil
Jarret Heil

Thing is, industry leaders say the production of those windmills — all the parts that go into them — accounts for thousands of Iowa jobs. It's a wind-rich state where many farmers have cashed in by having wind turbines installed on their land.

Heil — not the Romney campaign — released the statement. It includes a litany of criticisms of the Obama administration, ranging from economic policies to the controversial mandate that employers, including religiously affiliated organizations, cover contraception under their health plans.

A Romney spokesman declined to comment.

In an e-mail to Iowa Public Radio on Wednesday, Heil said the Obama team chose his father's farm as a good location for a news conference. He said he was "certain" the campaign knew, based on background checks of several guests leading up to the event, that his family doesn't support the president.

Heil's father, in an interview with the local newspaper, made it clear he's not an Obama supporter, either.

The Obama campaign's Erin Seidler said in a written statement Wednesday: "President Obama greatly appreciates the Heil Family opening up their farm and the opportunity to tour the wind farm. They were wonderful hosts. Wind is important to Iowa's economy, and that's why President Obama is calling to extend the production tax credit."

In an e-mail exchange, Seidler said the Heils were suggested by the power company MidAmerican Energy as a possible location for the presidential visit.

Heil ends his statement by noting that his father prayed with Obama during a private moment at the farm "for true divine guidance from our Lord Jesus Christ," and Obama "told my father to keep praying for him because he really needs it."

But it seems the president's hosts won't be praying for his success in November.

Sarah McCammon reports for Iowa Public Radio.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.