Enthusiasm -- and Signs of Trouble -- on Obama's Iowa Bus Route

Enthusiasm -- and Signs of Trouble -- on Obama's Iowa Bus Route

By Tom Bevan - August 16, 2012

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- With the first lady at his side, an energized President Obama wrapped up his bus tour of Iowa on Wednesday, firing up crowds in Dubuque and Davenport by outlining the huge stakes in November and urging Iowans to stand with him to "finish the work we started together four years ago."

Under mostly clear skies in picturesque settings along the Mississippi River, the Obamas recaptured at least some of the magic that embodied the unlikely 2008 run that put them in the White House.

Yet despite the meticulously scripted events and adoring crowds during the president’s three-day visit, there were small signs along the way, as Bruce Springsteen famously sang, of trouble in the heartland.

Related Story: Obama's Bus Trip -- by the Numbers

In Des Moines, at the end of his first day on the road, the president stopped off at the Iowa State Fair to visit the fairgrounds’ famous beer tent. The Obama campaign was thrilled with the resulting photo-op: Regular-guy president buys a round of Budweisers for a dozen or so fairgoers, who break into a cheeky cheer (“four more beers!”) in support of his re-election.

But it soon emerged that Mike Cunningham II, the third-generation owner of the 65-year-old institution known as the Bud Tent, was less than thrilled with the visit. On one hand, he told reporters, it’s always an honor to host the president of the United States (in 1954, his great-grandfather received Dwight Eisenhower at the fair, the first of four sitting presidents to visit over the years).

On the other hand, in a tough economic environment the security requirements of the presidential stop, which included a full Secret Service sweep of the area, meant the beer tent had to be shut down for nearly two hours during its busiest time of day, Cunningham complained. He claimed that Obama’s appearance cost him some $25,000 in revenue, which he described wryly as making a “campaign contribution against my will.”

“I wouldn’t have voted for him before,” Cunningham told the Des Moines Register. “I won’t again.”

On Day 2 of Obama’s bus tour, he visited a wind farm in central Iowa to highlight his support for -- and Mitt Romney’s opposition to -- tax credits for the wind energy industry. Again, the campaign was thrilled with the picture-perfect optics of the event.

But shortly after Obama’s caravan departed, Jeff Heil, the owner of the farm, and his son Jarret, let it be known that although the president was “gracious, personable, and very respectful” -- and that Jeff and Obama actually said a quick prayer together at the farm Tuesday, neither man will be voting for him in November.

“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,” Jarret Heil said in a statement to the media.

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Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email:, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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