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Obama launches pre-convention swing in Iowa

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

URBANDALE, Iowa — President Barack Obama ripped the GOP’s recently wrapped convention as a “rerun” and a throwback to an earlier time, as he kicked off a campaign tour Saturday leading up to his nomination next week.

“We’d seen it before,” Obama told a crowd estimated by local officials at 10,000 people. “You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV.”

The president repeatedly has sought to cast GOP nominee Mitt Romney as out of touch and the Republican Party as trying to revive old policies. His speech sharpened that theme and contrasted it with his campaign slogan: “Forward.”

The president also knocked Romney for what he said was a glaring omission in his acceptance speech.

Romney “had nothing to say about Afghanistan last week, let alone offer a plan” for bringing home U.S. troops from the war zone, Obama said.

Obama also attacked Romney for comments that he made in 2011, when he called Obama’s plan for troop withdrawals from Iraq “precipitous” and “unfortunate,” saying, “I think it’s tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard won by the men and women who served there.”

“He said ending the war in Iraq was a tragedy,” Obama said. “I said we’d end that war, and we did. I said we’d take out bin Laden and we did.”

Obama was slated to make two stops in Iowa on Saturday — his 18th and 19th events in the state this year. The lavish attention is a reflection of the importance of this battleground and the fierce fight under way on the ground. Iowa is something of a linchpin in Obama’s “small-state” electoral strategy, which would allow him to lose Ohio, Florida and Virginia if he locks up the upper swing states in the West, the northern Midwest and New Hampshire.

Obama won Iowa by 9 percentage points in 2008. Polls show the race essentially tied.

Obama spoke at Living History Farms, an outdoor museum dedicated to Iowa farm life. The setting gave the rally a classic, rural veneer — Obama spoke in front of a brown barn — although the museum is in the Des Moines suburbs, down the road from a cluster of big-box stores.

The Romney campaign responded to Obama’s critique by blaming the president for declining incomes and higher unemployment. “In the face of a record of failure, he offered no new solutions, just misleading attacks,” said Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman. “Mitt Romney has the plan to do what President Obama can’t – create 12 million new jobs, increase take-home pay, and bring relief to the struggling middle class.”

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