President Obama celebrated the role Iowa played in his campaign in 2008 and took aim once again at Mitt Romney's business background at a campaign rally on the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday.
"The last time he visited these same fairgrounds, he famously declared that corporations are people," Obama told a crowd of roughly 2,500 packed into an exhibit space. "Human beings, my friends."
The president maintained that the private equity industry is a welcome part of the economy – risk-takers and investors should be rewarded, he said. But their motives are not job creation.
"The people who work in these firms will tell you that's not their goal," Obama said, explaining that the goal for private equity companies, such as Bain, the company Romney co-founded, is "maximizing short-term gains for your investors."
"There may be value for that type of experience but it's not in the White House," the president said, where the goal is "strong and sustainable, broad-based growth."
He added: "Now, I know Governor Romney came to Des Moines last week; warned about a "prairie fire of debt." That's what he said. But he left out some facts. His speech was more like a cow pie of distortion. I don't know whose record he twisted the most -- mine or his."
The Romney attacks now appear to be part of Obama's regular stump speech – he has employed them several times this week, despite criticism from some Democrats that he is wrongly villifying the industry.
Senior officials have said he doesn't plan to back off any time soon and that if Romney wants to present his experience in the private equity business as a central qualification for his election, then the qualification deserves to be scrutinized.
A spokesman for Romney issued a scathing statement after Obama's speech but did not address the president's attacks on Romney's private equity background.
"A president who broke his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term has no standing when it comes to fiscal responsibility," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement, noting that Obama has presided over record deficit spending. "… When you listen to President Obama's campaign speeches, it's as if he's forgotten that he's been president for nearly four years and has a record to defend. President Obama has proven beyond all doubt that he is not serious about fixing our country's spending problem."
In his remarks, Obama contrasted the vision he has for the country with Romney's by talking about his desire to make sure everyone gets a fair shot and is playing by the same rules. He said he wants to reform the tax code, and he said his plan to reform Medicare is not to privatize it.
"We're going to reform it by reducing the actual costs of health care," he said.
Obama appeared energized by his visit to Iowa, where his campaign won a hard-fought primary over Hillary Clinton in 2008.
"There's something about coming to Iowa," the president said as he started his speech. "It's my home away from home."