Both major party presidential candidates are focused on Iowa as a potential "swing" state in the fall election.
Republican George Bush won Iowa by just 0,000 votes in 2004 — out of more than a million votes cast. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the state by an even smaller margin – 2000 votes. That kind of political history is why many Iowans are seeing ads on their televisions that feature Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Obama called the Radio Iowa newsroom last Saturday and he closed the conversation with this. "We’re going to campaign actively in the general election in Iowa," Obama said. "We think that the issues that we talk about really transcend party lines and we can attract Republicans and Independents who want to see change in Washington. We’re very much looking forward to spending a lot of time in Iowa and getting together with old friends who really helped launch this campaign."
Obama stressed the importance of his victory in the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses, the first contest in the presidential campaign. "The Iowa Caucus was lift-off for us and, you know, I think it’s indicative of how powerful the Iowa Caucus can be that what we were able to successfully do in Iowa ultimately translated into the nomination after having campaigned in 48 other states," Obama said.
Obama suggested his overall "change" theme of his campaign will remain unchanged through November. "We feel very confident that the same themes — changing Washington so that we no longer have special interest domination…on health care and college affability and job creation and energy policy," Obama said, "that the American people are being represented on these issues and not just the oil companies or the banks or the insurance companies, that remains a powerful theme that I think people care deeply about."
Obama has hired a state director and three other staffers to run his Iowa effort. McCain has hired a state director, too. Dave Roederer is a volunteer who serves as the campaign’s state chairman. "Iowa for the last few election cycles has been very, very close. Last time, President Bush won Iowa with around three votes per precinct and the cycle before that President Bush lost Iowa by two votes per precinct," Roederer says. "The fact that Senator Obama is a neighbor from Illinois probably gives him a leg up here, but right now we think it’s going to be a very, very close race."
Just before McCain appeared at a rally in Des Moines this past May, Roederer warned the crowd of Republicans that Democrats had racked up a huge voter registration edge because of high turnout for the January 3rd Caucuses. Two months later, Roederer says the McCain campaign effort not only must register new Republican voters, but convert those who consider themselves Independents. "I think anytime you go into a major general election like this you obviously have a strong voter registration effort, but you also try to figure out that the new registrants, where they are philosophically," Roederer says. "While they may sign up for one party or the other — and the trend is for many people to be signing up as ‘no party’ — then you work on those individuals to see whether or not they are going to be favorable to your candidate."
It was at this time a year ago that McCain pared down his national campaign apparatus when fundraising fell far short of expectations. It was a skeleton crew that stayed on task here in Iowa for the remainder of the Caucus campaign. "We feel we have a very good network in place that we’re building on," Roederer says. "I think that people need to remember that Senator McCain did 90 events in Iowa during the Caucuses and he was in probably half the counties, so we’re going to continue to build on the base that he’s established here."
McCain visited the Iowa State Fair last August and has publicly declared his intention to return to the fair in 2008.