President Barack Obama told about 800 people in Oskaloosa, their future depends on building on what they have accomplished since he came here last. Obama said, “We build an economy where middle class folks and folks aspiring to the middle class can succeed. That has been our goal. That’s why we’re still fighting.”
People in this crowd know economic frustrations strain the middle class and challenge the president to hold onto those who backed him before. Sharon Steinbeck supported Obama in 2008 and plans to vote for him again in 2012. She knows some supporters from 4 years ago could have apprehension about whether the president can really bring the change they wanted. Steinbeck said, “I think they have some concern. But I think he needs to be given another chance because he doesn’t have all the say. He’s battling a pretty stiff congress.”
The president also addressed critics who blame him for unemployment above 8% for 3 1/2 years and debts rising more than a trillion dollars a year. He argued it isn’t right to say it’s just his fault.
Obama said, “What I learned from you here in Iowa in 2008. Other folks may outspend us. Folks may write me off. But when you got ordinary folks pulling together, cutting through the nonsense, the focus is on what’s important, when you guys get involved, you can’t be stopped.”
An hour away back at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, business, is no longer stopped. But frustration flows. Mike Cunningham owns the popular Bud Tent. He still smarts from what happened to him the night before. Cunningham said, “If you shut down, you can’t sell food and beer. And that’s what you’re here to do. You’re going to lose money.”
Tuesday night, Cunningham said the president’s staff and security forced him to close off his tent to more customers so the president could hold a campaign event there. Cunningham estimates that probably cost him $25,000 in sales. And he said getting forced to keep out customers contradicts the president’s message in Oskaloosa of growing the middle class and helping small businesses. Cunningham said, “You only have 11 days to try and make money here at the fair. When one of those nights is taken away from you, it’s always tough to recover from that.”
Cunningham is a Republican and knows he is now in the middle of politics. He said it was an honor to have the president come to his tent. But he feels since the president holds fundraisers charging people tens of thousands a plate, why can’t he make it up to vendors like himself who lose thousands just so he can make a campaign appearance?