With the two major party candidates for president visiting Iowa today (Friday), there’s no doubt Iowa is one of a handful of states where the race between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney is too close to call.

Why are these candidates investing so much time and money here? Iowa has just six votes in the Electoral College, but Drake University professor Dennis Goldford says those could provide the margin of victory.

“We have to remember, for example, that aside from the whole issue of the hanging chads and the problems with Florida…Governor Bush won the presidency in 2000 by two electoral votes. He had 271 votes. You need 270,” Goldford says. “Iowa’s six electoral votes are more than enough to cover a margin like that.”

Romney is scheduled to speak over the noon-hour in Orange City — in the northwest corner of the state that has been a Republican stronghold. Goldford says it’s wise for Romney to rally the GOP base.

“If they sit on their hands and stay at home, Romney will be sunk,” Goldford says, “so it’s always worthwhile to go and press the ‘hot buttons’ of your particular base constituencies.”

Obama, likewise, is going to Iowa City this evening, visiting Johnson County — a stronghold for Democrats. His wife, Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will be there, too. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the deputy manager of the Obama/Biden campaign, says the visit shows how important those six electoral votes are.

“Iowa matters,” O’Malley Dillon says. “Iowa is an absolute battleground state and there are many pathways to victory for us — there are many pathways to 270 electoral votes — but the majority of them go through Iowa.”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus says Iowa is a “ground zero” state for the Romney/Ryan ticket.

“It’s a state that is virtually tied right now,” Priebus says. “But it’s also a state that’s the birthplace of all of the promises of Barack Obama. I mean here’s a guy who loves the sound of his own voice, can’t follow through on a promise, somehow is going to sell us on the idea that everything is going great when we all know that it’s not.”

O’Malley Dillon says she “feels good” about get-out-the-vote efforts in Iowa, but she warns beating Romney “isn’t going to be easy.”

“The truth is that this race has been pretty stable since the very beginning,” O’Malley Dillon said. “It’s been stable all year, with little ups and downs, and we expect that to continue. The reality is that we know this is going to be a very close election.”

O’Malley Dillon also credits the Romney campaign for being “far more” organized in Iowa than John McCain’s campaign was in 2008.

“We know that they’re going to be on the ground,” O’Malley Dillon said. “But we know that we have a stronger organization and we’re going to need a stronger organization in order to be successful, so we’re very focused on that.”

O’Malley Dillon — who by the way is pregnant with twins who’re due the day after Election Day — spoke this week with Iowa delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Priebus — the chairman of the Republican National Committee — flew to Iowa last night to speak at an event in Iowa City to tout the GOP’s message before Obama arrives.

“What we need to do in Iowa is not just appeal to Republicans and independents, but we have to appeal to the people that believes that Barack Obama was different in ’08, but now understand that he’s just terribly disappointing,” Priebus said during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.

But Priebus also said personal visits from Romney to states like Iowa are key to rally Republican activists working to get out the vote.

“I know that you all appreciate good college football in Iowa and I’ll tell you it always comes down to who has the bigger, faster line that has the most stamina and that team always wins. It’s the same thing in politics,” Priebus said. “…The airwaves will be saturated, but it’ll all come down the ground game and that’s why being here in person is really important.”

Romney is scheduled to speak at noon on the campus of Northwestern, a private Christian college in Orange City. The Obama campaign rally will be held on the University of Iowa campus and Obama’s scheduled to speak at about 5:30 p.m.