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Obama begins 'Road to Charlotte' tour in Iowa with slam at 'backwards' GOP

President Barack Obama kicked off his "Road to Charlotte" tour with stops in multiple states on Saturday. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – President Barack Obama began his "Road to Charlotte" tour Saturday in Iowa, the state that started it all back in 2008.

While this was the formal start of the push to highlight his upcoming speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the president has been stumping in Iowa pretty regularly this year. Saturday’s visit marked his seventh trip to the Hawkeye state. While Iowa only has six electoral votes, the campaign is determined to prove that the president can once again win over a state that has been politically leaning red since Obama was elected.

In Urbandale, outside of the capital city of Des Moines, the president began to renew his case with his version of a "recap" of this past week's Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"Everything is bad, it’s Obama’s fault and Governor Romney is the only one who knows the secret to creating jobs and growing the economy," the president said sarcastically. "That was the pitch. There was a lot of talk about hard truths and bold choices, but nobody ever actually bothered to tell you what they were."

And then he pledged to give the answers he claimed the Republicans glossed over.

"This Thursday night, I will offer you what I believe is a better path forward, a path that grows this economy, creates more good jobs, strengthens the middle class. And the good news is you get to choose which path we take. We can take their path or we can take the path that I'm going to present."

His speeches in both Urbandale and Sioux City were energetic with new, pointed criticisms of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Harkening back again to Romney's speech in Tampa, the president reminded the crowd that Romney didn’t mention the troops serving in Afghanistan.

"Governor Romney had nothing to say about Afghanistan last week, let alone offer a plan for the 33,000 troops who will have come home from the war by the end of this month. He said ending the war in Iraq was 'tragic.' I said we’d end that war -- and we did."

Larry Downing / Reuters

President Barack Obama speaks to thousands of supporters Saturday at a campaign event at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa.

The Obama campaign theme emblazoned on banners at events is "Forward," symbolizing the president's repeated criticisms that Romney's plans will take the country "backwards." But the president newly riffed on this Saturday when he said of the Republican convention, "What they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a rerun. We’d seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV."

But missing from the pair of fiery speeches in Iowa were new ideas from the president. He presented the plans he's been pushing throughout the year. If he has new ideas, he's clearly saving them for Thursday.

Shawna Thomas / NBC News

A sign using the Sioux City, Iowa, airport code Saturday gives President Barack Obama a derogatory greeting on the side of a hangar.

His remarks Saturday were a reworked mash-up that allowed him to choose applause lines that have worked well since he officially took to the trail in May. 

But waiting for the president when he landed was a sign that he still has a ways to go to win over Iowa again, literally. Spread across a hangar at the airport where Air Force One landed was a handmade sign proclaiming "Obama welcome to SUX and We Did Build This" ("welcome to" was in small letters; to be fair, SUX is the airport code for Sioux City, but the sign was meant to be derogatory).

The president continues his tour through Colorado, Ohio, Virginia and Louisiana before heading to Charlotte to give one of the most important speeches of his political career.