DUBUQUE - President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each campaigned in Dubuque on Saturday, seeking to fire up supporters and make their final pitches to undecided voters in battleground Iowa.
The president and his Republican challenger brought dueling messages, chants and celebrities to Dubuque in events that were a few hours and miles apart. The stops in the city of 58,000 along the Mississippi River showed how hard both campaigns were trying to win Iowa and neighboring Wisconsin, another battleground state whose residents attended both events.
Romney arrived first, with his campaign plane pulling up at an airport hangar where hundreds of supporters had gathered at noon. The crowd roared with applause as he and his wife, Ann, stepped off the plane. Romney promised during a 20-minute speech that he would do a better job of managing the nation's economy than Obama had.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters as he campaigns at Dubuque Regional Airport, in Dubuque, Saturday.
"I know most of you here have decided who you are voting for in three more days. But you have some neighbors who haven't made up their minds yet," Romney said. "I want to make sure I give you all the arguments you need to make sure you convince someone to come over and vote for our team."
Before Romney spoke, NASCAR team owner and legendary driver Richard Petty urged the crowd to dump Obama because "it's not been a good four years." The partisan crowd chanted, "three more days!"
The candidates were competing to win over voters such as A.J. Paradiso, 25, a welding shop employee who stood in line for Romney's event. He said he was drawn to Romney's event first to see Petty "and then, I'm here maybe, possibly to see the next president of the United States."
"I'll give Romney a shot. I haven't made up my mind, but he could sway my vote," he said. Paradiso said he also wanted to see Obama's rally with rocker John Mellencamp at a city park Saturday afternoon, but he worried that "downtown is going to be a zoo" as a result of road closures and traffic.
He was right. Even before Romney's plane left the airport, thousands of Obama supporters started forming a line that snaked through downtown for several blocks as they waited for the president. They chanted "Four more years!" before Obama took the stage in the early evening at Washington Park.
Obama said he'd kept his promises to end the war in Iraq, expand health insurance, kill Osama bin Laden and allow openly gay soldiers to serve in the military. He said Romney's presidency would return the nation to the "top-down economics that crashed our economy."
"What he's selling, we tried. It didn't work. We're not going back," he said. He told supporters to knock on doors and "turn out the vote for me" on Tuesday.