The Washington Post

Obama lauds rural America, announces growth initiatives in Iowa

On the second day of his Midwestern economic tour, President Obama spoke less about the particulars of policy and more about what Washington could learn from rural America.

“I’ve been traveling through these small towns and talking to folks,” Obama told an audience at Northeast Iowa Community College here. “You do your part. You meet your obligations. It’s time Washington acted the way you do every single day.”

As his armored bus drove past tiny towns in perfect weather — even passing by the setting for the film “Field of Dreams” near here — the president worked to connect to ordinary people and show a softer side. He held up a baby, chatted up a seventh-grader and had eggs and toast with a group of small-business owners at Rausch’s Cafe in Guttenberg, where coffee costs 60 cents.

“We’ll get through this challenge,” Obama said at the community college, before joining a group of breakout sessions. But, he added, “this comeback isn’t going to be driven by Washington.”

The president’s uplifting and personal tone drew a contrast to his remarks Monday, where he lashed out at Congress and leveled criticism at the 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

On Monday, when he visited Cannon Falls, Minn., and Decorah, Iowa, Obama didn’t mention any new ideas, but he repeated calls to pair measures to tame the deficit with efforts to boost the economy.

But on Tuesday, the White House announced several measures to support economic growth in rural communities by making it easier for small businesses to get loans, helping people find jobs and get training and improving access to technology. Officials made clear, however, that the initiatives would not need extra funding, underscoring how difficult it is for the White House to find new funds for boosting the economy.

While most of the people the president encountered appeared to be fans, some had other feelings.

Larkin Rutledge, 63, of Guttenberg, sat at the counter at Rausch’s Cafe but made clear that his vote will go to someone else.

“I respect his office. I respect him as a person,” Rutledge said. But his niece’s sister-in-law is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is running for the GOP nomination for president. “That lets you know where I stand,” he said.

In fact, Rutledge was in Waterloo with Bachmann and her family when she made her campaign announcement.

On Wednesday, Obama will head to western Illinois to host town halls in Atkinson and Alpha.

Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.



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