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Mixed Feelings Abound As Obama Visits Iowa

President Obama listens to questions during a Monday town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa.
Carolyn Kaster
President Obama listens to questions during a Monday town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa.

As President Obama travels on a three-day, three-state Midwestern bus tour to talk about the economy and jobs, one of the places he has visited is the city of Decorah in northeast Iowa.

The tiny college town — whose economy is doing considerably better than the nation as a whole — is friendly territory for the president. Obama carried the county by a wide margin in 2008.

Among voters now, you'll find plenty of loyalists — but also plenty of frustration.


Dave Donaldson, 45, who works at the local video store, is an independent who voted for both Presidents Bush, as well as for Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Obama.

"From what I've seen, I've seen a lot of talk and not so much action. I did believe in the message of hope and change. I did. In retrospect, not so much," Donaldson says.

Donaldson says he's disappointed that the job picture isn't far better and that this far into his presidency, Obama should stop pointing the finger of blame at his predecessor.

At a sports bar in downtown Decorah on Monday, about a dozen people watched live coverage of the president's town hall meeting happening just miles away. As Obama took on a tougher tone than usual, some at the bar clapped and expressed support for what he was saying.

Among them was Joanne Jurs, 74, who says her support for Obama is unwavering.


"Not wavering at all," she said. "I'm married to one who's wavering just a little."

Jurs says her husband wants to see more decisiveness from the president and more of a plan for the economy, but she stresses that he is still a supporter.

Tea Party Stakes Out A Spot

As the president's event ended, crowds started lining up along downtown streets on the route the motorcade would take. Many just wanted a glimpse of the president. And certainly there were a lot of supporters, but the local Tea Party had also staked out a spot.

Thomas Hansen, 49, who raises and sells organic beef, organized the Tea Party gathering. He held up a sign that read, "Mr. President, a rural, small American businessman wishes to talk to you."

"And that's me," Hansen said. "That's what he said he was on the tour for."

The president's bus suddenly turned a corner, and rolled past.

Greg Moeller, 48, a Tea Party activist and a computer technician, said it's important that Obama saw not just supporters when he came to town.

"We're here to endeavor to represent our interests as citizens of the United States to the president," Moeller said.

Meanwhile, another crowd gathered on the street in front of the Winneshiek Hotel, where the president stayed.

Uwe Rudolf, 68, who is retired from Luther College, a major employer here, held a sign of his own.

"It says, 'Yes, Obama, No Tea Party,' " Rudolf said.

The other side of his sign contained the phrase "take on the naysayers." Rudolf says his only complaint about the president is that he's not aggressive enough with Republicans in Congress. But he likes the idea of this tour.

"I watched him on CNN today. He is coming on a little stronger. Finally," Rudolf said.

And Rudolf predicts that's something that's absolutely critical if the president hopes for a second term.

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