Michelle Obama joins President Obama to wrap up Iowa bus tour

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

First lady Michelle Obama—vastly more popular than her husband—joins President Barack Obama in Iowa on Wednesday as he wraps up a three-day campaign bus tour of the Hawkeye State. The Obamas will also sit down for a joint interview with People magazine.

The Obamas will hold rallies in Dubuque and Davenport before leaving this potentially pivotal battleground state and heading back to Washington.

Several polls in late May found that 2 out of 3 Americans say they have a positive opinion of Michelle Obama. That's about 10 points higher than her husband's favorability ratings—and 20 points higher than his job approval numbers.

The Iowa bus tour has highlighted some of the president's other political assets and tactics: It opened with his announcement of a major aid package for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the worst drought in a half-century, showcasing the power of incumbency.

And Obama has cast newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in the role of villain in his stump speech, telling every audience he's had in Iowa that Ryan is "the ideological leader" of House Republicans. A new Gallup poll found that just 10 percent of Americans say they approve of the way lawmakers are doing their job, fueling the president's efforts to run against Congress. Obama has also seamlessly integrated Ryan into his chief campaign narrative on the economy: that the Republican ticket will fight for the very rich, not the middle class.

The president has made no secret that he hopes to rekindle his love affair with voters in Iowa, the cradle of his long-shot victory over Hillary Clinton four years ago. Iowa holds a paltry six electoral college votes out of the 270 needed to win, but Obama and Mitt Romney have been running neck and neck here and the state is considered a potentially crucial toss-up.

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"I'm going to need your help. I'm going to need you fired up again," he told supporters in a middle school gym in Marshalltown on Tuesday.

Obama, who freely acknowledges on the stump that the magic of 2008 has faded, has made it a point to focus on his campaign's get-out-the-vote efforts. His campaign has bet the outcome in November on its lavish "ground game," the unprecedented machine that helped him capture the White House four years ago and never really went away. At each stop, he has urged supporters to visit the voter registration site gottaregister.com.

"That's g-o-t-t-a.  I'm sorry, teachers, but it's 'gotta.'  It's not 'got to,' it's 'gotta.' Gottaregister.com," he said in Marshalltown.

Obama spoke mostly to small crowds in Iowa—4,300 in Council Bluffs, 2,200 in Boone, 852 in Oskaloosa, 555 in Marshalltown and 1,800 in Waterloo. But campaign stagecraft results in pictures and television footage in which he seems mobbed by well-wishers.

The president has also sought to polish his "regular guy" credentials with stops at coffee shops, Iowa's famous state fair, and the Pump Haus brewery. Perhaps fighting for rumored "who would I rather have a beer with?" voters, Obama has played up his fondness for that all-American beverage.

"Hey everyone who's over 21, you gotta buy a beer!" he said while visiting the Bud Tent at the state fair. (The establishment's Republican owner later complained that the tight security required for the president's visit had cost him $25,000.) Some supporters chanted "four more beers," according to a pool report. (Hey, it's catchier than "a thousand pints of light.")

On Tuesday morning, Obama stopped at the Coffee Connection in Knoxville. At one point, he sent at aide back to his black Ground Force One armored bus to get a patron a bottle of the White House's home-brew. (News outlets have been writing about that first-of-its-kind operation since at least September 2011.)

This is no campaign conversion: In addition to launching the White House's home-brew efforts, Obama quaffed a Guinness during a St. Patrick's Day outing at an Irish pub earlier this year. And, perhaps most famously, his response to a clash between a white Cambridge police officer and an African-American Harvard professor was to invite the two men to a "beer summit" at the White House in July 2009.

Vice President Joe Biden—who, like Mitt Romney, doesn't drink—joined the group, but consumed a nonalcoholic beer.