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Obama pushes wind power in Iowa visit

By the CNN Wire Staff
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The Wonder of Wind
  • "Our economy is finally growing again," Obama says
  • Obama visiting Iowa as part of "White House to Main Street" tour
  • Obama unveiled his health care plan in Iowa in 2007
  • Two-day swing will also take president to neighboring Missouri and Illinois
  • Barack Obama
  • The White House
  • Iowa

Fort Madison, Iowa (CNN) -- President Obama took his renewable energy push to the heartland Tuesday, trumpeting the merits of wind power during a visit to the state that launched him on the road to the White House a little over two years ago.

Obama's visit to the Siemens wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, was the latest stop in his "White House to Main Street" tour, part of his pitch to middle-class workers hurt by the economic downturn.

"Lately, we've been able to report some welcome news after a hard two years. Our economy is finally growing again," Obama told workers at the plant.

But "times are still tough for middle-class Americans, who had been swimming against the current for years before the economic tidal wave hit."

While in Iowa, the president also toured an organic farm in Mount Pleasant and was scheduled to host a town hall meeting at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa.

"The country that leads the clean energy economy will be the country that leads the 21st century global economy," Obama said at the Siemens plant. "I don't accept second place for the United States of America. That's why our energy security has been a top priority for my administration since the day I took office."

The president cited his controversial $862 billion economic stimulus plan, which passed over solid GOP opposition early last year. The measure helped reverse the economic downturn and will create or save more than 700,000 jobs by 2012, he claimed.

It will do so in part by funding larger investments in renewable energy projects, according to the administration. Obama claimed that, if the proper investments are made, wind could generate up to 20 percent of America's energy two decades from now.

"Wind power isn't the silver bullet that will solve all our energy challenges," he said. "There isn't one. But it is a key part of a comprehensive strategy to move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels to one that relies on more homegrown fuels and clean energy."

Republicans have repeatedly slammed the economic stimulus plan, characterizing it as a pork-laden bill that failed to prevent unemployment from rising.

Obama is scheduled to spend Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa, resting up for stops Wednesday in Illinois and Missouri.

It was just a month ago that Obama spoke at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, to tout the health care reform bill he had just signed into law. In May 2007, the then-presidential candidate chose Iowa to unveil his health care plan, which the White House says "launched a grass-roots campaign for reform that led directly to the legislation passed" by Congress last month.

Obama made his first trip as president to Iowa on April 22, 2009. He marked Earth Day in Newton by announcing an initiative to lease federal waters for the purpose of generating electricity from wind and ocean currents.

Obama's victory in January 2008 in his party's Iowa caucuses boosted him into front-runner status along with Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, a fight he won when Clinton dropped out in June.

Obama ended up winning the state by 10 points, a switch in fortunes for the Democrats. Four years earlier, President George W. Bush narrowly won the state.

But the political climate has changed for the president and for the Democrats since those heady days of 2008. Iowans are now divided on the job Obama is doing in the White House.

According to a KCCI-Research 2000 poll conducted two months ago, 49 percent of Iowans approved of the president's performance in office, with 46 percent saying they disapprove. The same survey indicated that 35 percent of Iowa voters thought the country was headed in the right direction, with six in 10 saying it was headed the wrong way.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.