AMES — Democrats are girding for a tough presidential re-election battle in 2012 and Iowa will figure prominently in their victory strategy, President Barack Obama’s senior campaign strategist said Thursday.
“We’re prepared for a very close and competitive election,” said David Axelrod. “We’ve come through a very difficult time in our country. Everybody feels it.”
Axelrod and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, traveled to Iowa to counter the negative drumbeat against the president and his policies from potential Republican challengers.
Obama is scheduled to bring his Midwest bus tour to the northeast Iowa town of Peosta next week.
“Obviously, Iowa is a very important state. We need to win Iowa, and I think we will,” Axelrod said.
Axelrod said his and Wasserman Schultz’s visit to Iowa was not spawned out of worry over the unfolding 2012 campaign.
“It reflects the fact that we think that Iowa is very important, and we do. It’s a very important state and we’re not going to take it for granted, we’re not going to neglect it,” Axelrod said. “It’s also true that you have Republican candidates tromping around this state on a daily basis and not one of them refers to the president as the loving son of a loving mother. They’re pretty tough on him. More than the president, the facts have been victimized in this debate. It’s good for us to come once in awhile and say here are the facts, here’s what the president has done, here’s what he believes.”
Axelrod defended the president’s effort to find compromise with Republicans on the federal debt ceiling, budget challenges and recovery efforts, for taking steps to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq by year’s end, and to implement financial, credit and health care reforms. He noted that all of the GOP candidates are vowing to roll back those reforms and questioned whether Americans want to return to a situation where they were denied insurance due to pre-existing medical conditions, lost coverage due to a serious illness or had young people dropped from their parents’ insurance.
“All of those things are going to be on the ballot in 2012 because every single Republican has said they’re going to roll it all back,” Axelrod said.
During a Des Moines news conference, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, an Obama backer in the 2008 presidential race, said Iowa has fared fairly well economically with the administration’s help. He also said he hopes people understand that it will take time to recover from the financial “cliff” the president faced when he took office in January 2009.
Fitzgerald added it was appropriate the GOP straw poll was occurring at the same time as the Iowa State Fair “because Iowans are used to carnival barkers and seeing and hearing things that they know just aren’t true.”