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But a half-dozen photos still hang on the wall at the Maid-Rite in Newton, where Mr. Obama used a June 2007 stop to sample the Midwestern chain’s iconic loose-beef sandwich, which is as much a rite of passage here as a cheesesteak is for those campaigning in Philadelphia.

“I think he’s very sincere. I don’t think he’s had a lot of cooperation from the Congress. Congress has tried to destroy everything he’s working for,” said Dan Holtkamp, who has owned this Maid-Rite for 41 years — long enough to be grandfathered in so that he can still serve his beef without the seasonings he said the national chain tried to push.

“When he was here, the one thing I wanted him to do was work on something for health care, and he has done that,” Mr. Holtkamp said.

Still, he said Newton, which was home to the Maytag company until it closed in 2007, has problems where he would like to see some action.

“I don’t think he’s helped the small businesses a lot. My county’s economy’s not very strong,” Mr. Holtkamp said Sunday.

Newton, Pleasantville and Albia are the kinds of towns where Mr. Obama fought it out first with Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards for the nomination, and later with Mr. McCain for the Oval Office.

His record in those three communities was mixed in 2008.

He placed third in the caucuses in Monroe County, where Albia is located, and lost the town in the general election. He won the most caucus delegates from Marion County in January of 2008, where Smokey Row is located, but that November he lost the town of Pleasantville to Mr. McCain.

But in Jasper County, despite trailing Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton in the January caucuses, he racked up a substantial victory over Mr. McCain in November.

Mr. Obama is expected to appear by video Tuesday night to speak to Democratic caucus-goers, but has not canvassed the state the way he had to in the run-up to the 2008 contest. Still, in 2010 he ate rhubarb pie at Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Mount Pleasant and visited Baby Boomer’s Cafe in Des Moines, which is home to a now world-famous chocolate chip cookie, thanks to his two daughters’ fondness for them.

This summer, he made a high-profile bus tour across the Midwest, including stops in Iowa for bacon and eggs in Guttenberg, vanilla ice cream in DeWitt and bags of popcorn in Le Claire.

Mr. Obama won Iowa in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote, but his approval rating has dropped below 50 percent here, and the state is expected to be in play this November.

Aware of that, one of his potential Republican opponents, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, twice has blasted the president for promises he made to Iowa voters during the 2008 campaign to change the culture in Washington — promises Mr. Romney said have gone unmet.

With the national economy still sour, Mr. Obama’s performance has been a hot topic, said Homer May, a 78-year-old retired federal investigator who lives in Warsaw, Mo., but spends a good deal of time visiting Pleasantville, where he talks Iowa politics.

He said his wife’s friend, a regular caucusgoer, is disappointed that the president spent “so much effort on this health care job that it seems a few other things just got buried,” but he said he admired the president for a change he said was on par with President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishing Social Security.

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