The mayor of Council Bluffs sees a two-state strategy in the first stop President Obama will make during his three-day campaign tour of Iowa.
Obama is scheduled to speak at about 11:30 in a Council Bluffs park. Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan said there’s a benefit to visiting Council Bluffs, as voters in both Iowa and Nebraska will see the president in the Omaha-based media.
“With Omaha being next door, we have about 900,000 people in this metro area,” Hanafan said.
Iowa’s six electoral college votes are clearly up for grabs in November’s election, but so is one electoral vote in the Omaha area — Nebraska’s second congressional district — since some of Nebraska’s electoral votes are not alloted based on the statewide vote, but decided instead by the popular vote inside each congressional district.
Hanafan spoke by phone with Radio Iowa early this morning as he sat inside City Hall in Council Bluffs — right across the street from the park where Obama is appearing.
“We have people lined up, been here since 6:30 this morning. If you go out and look, (there are) an awful lot of people from Omaha, a lot of people from Sarpy County — which is Nebraska and I think it just makes sense,” Hanafan said. “He probably won’t go into Nebraska, but he’s as close as he can get.”
The Council Bluffs mayor said it’s not easy to predict the outcome of the Obama-Romney race in his area.
“I think it’s going to be so close,” Hanafan said. “It seems like every day it changes, so it’s just awfully tight.”
Republicans outnumber Democrats in many of the counties in the western half of the state, making it the most Republican zone in the state. Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said turning out every possible Democratic vote in Council Bluffs is key not only for Obama’s race, but for two local races as well.
“Council Bluffs is incredibly important,” Dvorsky said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “It’s incredibly important for Michael Gronstal and that’s the key to the senate. It’s incredibly important for Leonard Boswell.”
Boswell, a Democratic congressman, faces Republican Congressman Tom Latham in November — and neither has been representing the Council Bluffs area. Gronstal is the Democratic leader in the state senate, and Democrats currently hold a narrow, two-seat majority there. The only statewide race in Iowa this year is the presidential race and Dvorsky said Obama will focus on middle class issues while he’s here this week.
“He delivers that message like nobody else,” Dvorsky said. “Then we can deliver it when he’s gone.”
Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman Mitt Romney chose as his running mate, will visit the Iowa State Fair early this afternoon — another signal of the fight for Iowa’s six electoral college votes. Ryan has been the chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee and the author of a highly-publicized budget-cutting plan. Democrats like Dvorsky say by pushing tax cuts for the wealthy, Ryan is pushing a “flawed theory” that got America’s economy into its current mess.
“As much as any other American voters, Iowans respond to pragmatic problem solving. That’s what they want,” Dvorsky said. “I think this sets up a very, very good conversation to have.”
President Obama’s second public stop of the day is in Boone, which happens to be Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s home. This morning, during his weekly news conference at the state capitol, Branstad scoffed at the president’s emphasis on the bright spots in Iowa’s economy.
“I think that takes audacity…to complement what we’re doing in Iowa compared to what they’re doing in Illinois where his friends are running the state,” Branstad told reporters this morning.
Branstad described the Boone park Obama’s staff has chosen for tonight’s rally as a “nice” spot.
“You know we always appreciate visits from the president or anybody else, but I’m really glad I have the opportunity to be with Paul Ryan at the Iowa State Fair,” Branstad told reporters.
As many politicians do, Ryan is scheduled to speak at The Des Moines Register’s “Soapbox” at 1:30 this afternoon.