- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2012

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — President Barack Obama and Joe Biden moved quickly Monday to link GOP rivals Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to House Republicans who Democrats blame for causing gridlock in Washington and pressing policies to protect the wealthy.

Obama, campaigning in Iowa, accused Ryan of blocking a congressional farm bill, seeking to link Romney by extension to a Washington stalemate that could help Midwestern voters cope with a crippling drought.

“If you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities,” Obama said. “We’ve got to put politics aside when it comes to doing the right thing for rural America and for Iowa.”

Biden sought to break through Romney’s efforts to put some distance between his proposals and Ryan’s austere budget plans, which Democrats believe could give them an opening with seniors fearful of his proposed overhaul of Medicare.

“Let’s cut through all of this,” Biden said during a rally in North Carolina. “They are running on what the Republican Congress has been promoting for the past four years.”

The Democratic effort sought to snag some of the excitement surrounding the Republican ticket since Romney named Ryan as his running mate on Saturday. Ryan was making his first solo campaign appearances in Iowa Monday, while Romney stumped for votes in Florida.

Romney briefly defended his new running mate’s budget proposals for Medicare, telling Florida voters that the Republican ticket wants to “make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare.”

“He’s come up with ideas that are very different than the president’s,” Romney said of Ryan. “The president’s idea, for example, for Medicare, was to cut it by $700 billion. That’s not the right answer.”

Campaigning on an unseasonably cool day in Iowa, Obama wore a jacket as he addressed roughly 4,300 people at a park in Council Bluffs, where buildings on the square were decked out with red-white-and-blue bunting and American flags. Many supporters held light blue Obama-Biden posters, a recognition that the Republican competition now has two names as well, Romney and Ryan.

The president put the power of his office on prominent display, announcing plans to buy up to $170 million worth of meat and poultry from distressed ranchers and farmers. Iowa’s six electoral votes could be pivotal in what has been a tight election.

Obama has urged Congress to pass a farm bill to provide a long-term solution for farmers. Democrats and Republicans are at odds over the program’s farm subsidies and food stamps, with Ryan among the GOP lawmakers backing cuts in food stamp programs that are opposed by the president’s party.

The Republican-controlled House approved a bill earlier this month to provide short-term disaster relief to farmers and ranchers. The Democratic-controlled Senate refused to act on the measure before lawmakers began a monthlong break.

Touring the Iowa State Fair, Ryan declined to respond directly when asked about Obama’s criticism.

“We’ll get into all those policy things later,” he said. “Right now I just want to enjoy the fair.”

Romney’s campaign played up Ryan’s upbringing in Wisconsin, which has a significant agricultural industry. Spokesman Ryan Williams said “no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket.”

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