WHITE HOUSE – As Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa, Florida, Democratic President Barack Obama again hit the campaign trail in key election states, returning to the Midwestern state of Iowa, which he won by more than a nine percent margin in 2008,
Addressing students at Iowa State University in Ames on Tuesday, President Obama criticized Romney's budget proposals as harmful to young people who are struggling to repay student loans.
To frequent cheers and an interruption of "Four More Years" from the crowd of some 6,000 people, Obama said young voters face a stark choice in November.
At their convention in Tampa, he said, Republicans will offer Americans a "top down" agenda that has been tried before, but offers no "path forward" and will not meet "the challenges of our time."
"It didn't work out then; it won't work now," he said. "I don't want to pay for another millionaire's tax cut by raising taxes on the middle class. I don't want to pay for that tax cut by cutting financial aid on 10 million students. Our economic strength doesn't come from the top down; it comes from students and workers and a growing, thriving middle class. That is how we grow an economy."
Mischa Olson, an Iowa State junior, introduced the president, saying Obama cares about education, health care and other issues important to young voters.
"President Obama is fighting for us, for you and for me," she said. But if we don't fight to protect everything he has done, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will take it all away. The president isn't going to win this election by himself. We need to work together to make it happen, just like we did four years ago."
The university's Republican student activist group held its own rally in support of Mitt Romney.
Presidents typically avoid intense campaigning during their opponents' nominating conventions. But with the 2012 race so close, especially in crucial swing states, the president is using every day to solidify support.
Dianne Bystrom, director of Iowa State University's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, says Obama's visit, barely two weeks after he last campaigned in Iowa, reflects the narrowing race and presents contrast to the Republican convention.
"The Obama campaign is fairly savvy about images, and media coverage," said Bystrom. "I feel like there could be sort of a juxtaposition of images of Obama speaking to large college young crowds juxtaposed against the images that may be broadcast from the Republican National Convention."
The president's second stop was Colorado -- his latest visit to the swing state he won four years ago -- and an address at Colorado State University. Both Obama and Romney have visited Colorado several times since January.
The president ends his two-day campaign swing on Wednesday in the eastern state of Virginia. He is expected to make return visits to Ohio, North Carolina and Florida during the next two weeks.
With public opinion surveys showing Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, analysts say both candidates need to strengthen support from their political bases. They also need to attract voters in key groups such as women, young people and political independents between now and Election Day on November 6.