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First Lady Michelle Obama stumps for her husband in Iowa City

BY CASSIDY RILEY | OCTOBER 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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When it comes to the American Dream, first lady Michelle Obama says she and her husband empathize with voters.

And while the Obamas maintain that they better identify with middle-class Americans in search of the American Dream, one local expert said both presidential candidates offer contrasting views of how that ideal lifestyle can be achieved.

Michelle Obama spoke at the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., on Monday afternoon about the current struggles of middle-class Americans. She said her husband is working on their side to help them because she and the president have both been in their situation.

“Barack Obama knows the American dream because he’s lived it,” she said.

She said President Obama and she have worked hard to get to where they are today, and they have faced a lot of the same obstacles many Americans face.

“We would not be here if it weren’t for financial aid,” she said. “When it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I have been there.”

She stressed that this election is truly about a choice between two different types of Americas. She said she and the president believe in an America in which people can work hard to achieve success and never forget all those who helped them along the way.

“When you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” she said.

Cary Covington, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, echoed the words of the first lady, saying this election is about two different ideals for the future of the country. He said both candidates have opposing views for how the American Dream can be reached.

“Romney wants to do that by getting government out of the way and letting people exercise their own creativity and industriousness,” he said. “Obama is emphasizing the importance of providing people with the resources that go with that.”

He said that while Romney wants to leave Americans to their own strength to achieve their goals, the president believes that in today’s world, people need more than just themselves — they need strong infrastructure and education.

“I just think they’re offering two very different visions,” he said. “Voters really need to look beyond the immediate economic situation to which vision for the country they embrace.”

Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker said he disagrees with the president’s approach to the American Dream.

“Obviously, Barack Obama has been more focused on advancing a socialist agenda, [with] more government in everybody’s life, including the private sector,” he said.

He said Romney is focused on the economy and getting people back to work.

“Pointing at people who’ve succeeded and saying, ‘You didn’t build that,’ is not the way that we as Americans think,” he said. “It’s building a class-envy-type scenario. I don’t look at my neighbor down the street who has a nicer house than me and say to my kids they didn’t get there fairly.

Romney’s plan for the American dream is really if you work hard [and] you go to school, you can be anything you want to be.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he attended the First Lady’s event and that he was impressed with how well she communicated her and the president’s message to the public.

“I think what should happen right now is the president should go take care of the disaster on the East Coast and let Michelle do all the campaigning, because she’s pretty good,” he said.

Jacoby said he believes she and the president understand middle-class struggles.

“She and the president have the actual real-world experience of working their way through college,” he said. “They fully understand what it’s like to be responsible for your own education.”


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