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First lady in Iowa City: Progress of last 4 years is at stake

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

IOWA CITY — After the campaign is over next week, first lady Michelle Obama said, she and her husband “will go back to normal where I tell him to pick up his shoes.”

But until then, there’s work to do — even in Iowa, where President Barack Obama’s campaign for the White House was launched.

In the next eight days, Obama said at an Iowa City rally Monday, the next four years are on the line.

“All the progress, it’s all on the line, all at stake,” she told a crowd security estimated at 800 people.

All indications are that the election will be close, “and it could come down to what happens in a few key battleground states like right here in Iowa,” the first lady said in her 40-minute speech.

That’s the way it feels to George and Wendy Hagen, who said they volunteer for the Obama campaign. The Davenport couple were well aware of the campaign’s intensity: Republican Mitt Romney was campaigning in their own community Monday.

“That’s why we’re here,” Wendy Hagen said.

Iowans have plenty of good reasons to vote for four more years, Obama said. Among her husband’s accomplishments, she said, are health care reform, ending the war in Iraq and taking out Osama bin Laden, making sure veterans get the benefits they earn, protecting young immigrants from deportation and removing the barriers to gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

And when it comes to understanding what’s important to women, “you know that Barack will always have your back. Always,” his wife said. “That’s why he will to make sure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies.”

But in a prebuttal to the first lady’s visit in Coralville on Monday, Iowa Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the Obama administration’s decisions have hurt women.

Since Obama took office, Reynolds said, nearly 400,000 women have lost their jobs and 5.5 million are unemployed. Also, the poverty rate among women has increased to 16.3 percent — the highest it’s been in 17 years.

“We deserve better,” Reynolds said, and a Romney administration “will make sure we have jobs, that we create an economy where women can find a job, can raise their standard of living.”

Much of the first lady’s remarks were personal as she talked about what made her fall in love with her husband. It was his character, she said.

“That decency, that honesty, that compassion and conviction that we’ve come to know,” she said.

The president has always been committed to helping others, she said, and that’s why he wants another four years.

“We are steadily moving this country forward and making real and meaningful change,” she said. “But my husband is nowhere near satisfied, there are too many still hurting.

“So here’s the question we have to ask ourselves: Are we going to turn around to the same policies that got us in this problem?”

So, she said, “for the next eight days and next four years we will not turn back. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. Let’s get it done.”

Carol Spaziami of Iowa City hopes that a second term is just the beginning for Michelle Obama.

“When she’s done being the ‘little woman,’ I hope she goes out and does something great,” Spaziami said, who was a Hillary Clinton fan, too. A feminist, she came to see the first lady in person “and to hear her — she’s so rational. It makes me feel good as a woman.”

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