For one day, the Republicans who have been swarming all over Iowa will have to share the spotlight with the man they have been attacking with such vigor. President Obama returns on Tuesday to the state that propelled him toward the presidency when he was the surprise winner of the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2008.
Officially, the trip is not about politics. But when the 2012 caucuses are only seven months away--and when anti-Obama television ads are already airing locally--in the state that casts the first votes of every presidential election season, almost everything is about politics. That includes the president’s visit to the Alcoa plant in Davenport.
For Obama, the trip is a chance to counter the nonstop criticism of his record coming from the Republican candidates who have been busy crisscrossing the state. It is a chance to tout gains in manufacturing jobs. And it is a chance to underscore the “stature gap” between an incumbent who comes with Air Force One, a Secret Service detail, and a motorcade and the would-be challengers who are still working to introduce themselves to voters.
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This is Obama’s fifth visit to Iowa as president, according to records maintained by Mark Knoller of CBS News. The frequent visits show that Obama has learned the lesson of President Carter, who used the caucuses adroitly to get elected in 1976 but then let his organization wither and was initially unprepared for a challenge from a fellow Democrat, Sen. Edward Kennedy, in 1980.