By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
CEDAR RAPIDS – Dianne Kamp knows a win in Iowa won’t be easy for President Obama in the November elections.
As a volunteer, the 69-year-old Marion resident has heard the complaints of disenchanted voters when she makes calls. Once supporters of the president, the voters now worry about the economy. They are angry that banks and Wall Street investors haven’t faced repercussions for their role in the Great Recession. But they also know Obama inherited a mess when he reached the White House in 2008 and faced an uphill fight in pushing legislation through a divisive Congress, she said.
“The landscape is very different this time,” Kamp said. “It’s going to be a very close race. But the people who want him re-elected are so loyal and dedicated.”
Obama returned to Iowa on Tuesday for the fourth time this year for a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids. He told a crowd of hundreds that the state holds a special meaning to him — its voters carried him to victory in the 2008 first-in-the nation caucuses and general election. He handily won Iowa by 9.54 percentage points.
This time around, however, Obama faces a much different political landscape. A rolling average of polls shows him with a slight 2.5 percentage point advantage in Iowa over his GOP rival Mitt Romney, according to figures from realclearpolitics.com. Voters who once enthusiastically supported him say they are unimpressed with how Obama has handled the economy and plan to vote for Romney.
Iowa’s voter registration figures in June also showed Republicans about 21,000 more registered voters than Democrats, according to Megan Stiles, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa. Those not claiming party affiliation outpaced both Republicans and Democrats. In 2008, registered Democrats in the state outnumbered Republicans by 110,000, she said.
Iowa went to the presidential candidates whose party had the most registered voters during the past two elections, Stiles said.
“It speaks to the strength of the party,” Stiles said. “It shows they are enthusiastic about going to the polls and voting in November.”
Some Democrats, however, question the significance of the increase in Republican voter registrations. Erin Seidler, communications director for the Obama campaign in Iowa, credited it partly to the January caucuses and county auditor voter maintenance after redistricting in the state. Democrats tend to be younger and more mobile, making it harder to track them, she said.
“We aren’t seeing an exodus from the Democratic party to the Republican party,” Seidler said.
Despite that, officials with the Obama campaign acknowledge it will be a tough fight to secure Iowa’s small but important six electoral votes. Obama has opened 14 campaign offices in the state and already poured in millions of dollars. He recently launched an ad campaign attacking Romney. In one, Obama accuses the former Massachusetts governor of outsourcing jobs while heading Bain Capital.
Some say the ad is largely based on false facts, but for other voters, the message is resonating.
Ethel Brown, 44, lost her job in April when the company she worked for shipped their operations overseas. The Cedar Rapids woman is a single mom and said Obama’s health reforms will help her secure health insurance. His policies also will help her go to school and earn a degree to become an ultrasound technician, she said.
“I’m affected but you can’t create jobs when you are focused on cleaning up someone else’s mess,” said Brown, who attended the Tuesday rally. “It’s time we have politics that are based on what’s best for the nation and not politics based on corporate sponsors.”
A number of supporters at the rally said the president made good on many campaign promises. Others, however, fell by the wayside because of Republican opposition that made it impossible to push his efforts forward, they said.
“He didn’t get as much done as he hoped,” said Leslie Burke, 53, of Coralville. “But he didn’t anticipate the opposition. It’s personal vindictiveness. The constitution says government for the people by the people. But it’s not government for the people.”