Rural America took center stage this week as the 2012 presidential campaign continued in earnest across the country’s midsection. Visiting the swing-state of Iowa this week, President Barack Obama used his staunch support of wind energy tax credits to bludgeon challenger Mitt Romney.
President Barack Obama: “During a speech a few months ago, Governor Romney even explained his energy policy this way: I'm quoting here. ‘You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.’ That's what he said about wind power. ‘You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.’ I don't know if he's actually tried that. I know he's had other things on his car. But if he wants to learn something about wind, all he's got to do is pay attention to what you've been doing here in Iowa.”
Contrasting the President’s wind energy embrace, presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney stood amongst coal miners in rural Ohio.
Mitt Romney, R – Massachusetts: “This is a time for truth. If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence for America, then say it. If you believe the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar why say that. Because I know he says that to some audiences out West. But it's time to tell the people of America what you believe. And I want to tell you the truth about what I stand for and what I do. And I want to contrast that with our president, because we would take America in a different direction. In my view, he would make America more and more like Europe. I don't think Europe works in Europe, alright?
As the 2012 election churns toward both party’s nominating conventions, some campaigning represents a throwback to past Iowa caucuses. Attempting to recapture the political magic of his 2008 caucus victory, President Obama’s bus tour rolled through small towns and included a stop at the quintessential icon of rural America: the Iowa State Fair.
President Obama: “You’ve got to buy a beer. It’s cold and tasty.”
Prior to Obama’s fair photo-op, newly minted Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan swept through the fair, dealt with a few protestors, and blasted the current administration.
After a 12-minute speech denouncing Obama’s economic policies, the Wisconsin Republican passed on the fair food photo-op AND reporter questions regarding this year’s devastating drought in rural America.
QUESTION: “What are you going to do about the drought."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R – Wisconsin: “We can play stump the candidate later.”
Speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa, President Obama tied Ryan to congressional gridlock on the 2012 farm bill.
President Barack Obama: “The best way to help these states is for the folks in Congress to pass a Farm Bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters but also makes some necessary reforms and gives farmers and ranchers some long-term certainty. Unfortunately, too many members of congress are blocking the farm bill from becoming law. I am told that Gov. Romney 's new running mate, Paul Ryan might be around Iowa the next few days. He is one of the leaders of congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. We've got to put politics aside when it comes to doing the right thing for Rural America and for Iowa.”
Later, touring a drought-stricken Iowa farm field, Obama announced a USDA meat buyback program to bolster livestock prices.
President Obama: “The Department of Agriculture has announced it will buy up to 100 million dollars of pork products, 50 million dollars worth of chicken, 20 million and 20 million dollars worth of land and farm-raised catfish.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack joined the President’s Iowa bus tour and later in the week, addressed a town hall of farmers and ranchers concerned about the impact of drought conditions.
Vilsack’s comments were echoed by USDA’s chief economist, who says recent Midwestern rains have done little to dent ongoing price trends.
Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, USDA: “The drought certainly hasn’t abated. That’s the main message. You know the last few weeks we’ve been at pretty much 80 to 90 percent of the corn and soybean crop in areas hit by drought. In some areas we have had a little bit of rain but the drought particularly in corn belt areas has actually intensified.”