wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

What’s the matter with Iowa?

at 06:30 AM ET, 08/14/2012

President Obama is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through the state of Iowa, his longest visit to one state so far in the 2012 race and a sign of the concern and consequence with which his side holds the Hawkeye State.


President Barack Obama stops for a snow cone at Tropical Sno, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in Denison, Iowa, during a three day campaign bus tour through Iowa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“I have nightmares about the electoral college coming down to 266-266, with Iowa to decide it,” said longtime Iowa Democratic operative Jerry Crawford. “It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound.”

Added Dave Roederer, who ran the George W. Bush operation in Iowa: “This is an unprecedented five-city tour. I doubt he’s here for the mountains.”

Iowa has long been a place of practical and symbolic importance to Obama. It was in Iowa where Obama delivered perhaps the most important/best speech of his 2008 candidacy (at the 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner) and it was in Iowa where the idea of Obama became reality when he won the caucuses. And it was Iowa that Obama visited shortly after declaring his plan to seek re-election this spring.

“He has a genuine fondness for the place, and my guess is that energizes him,” said Jo Dee Winterhof, a Democratic operative and Iowa native.

And yet, the Iowa of 2012 is not the Iowa of four years ago when Obama won by 10 points and 140,000 votes over Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Iowa Republicans had a banner year in 2010, ousting Gov. Chet Culver (D) and re-electing Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) handily. Then came a hotly-contested Iowa presidential caucus fight that saw the GOP field lavish attention and money on the Hawkeye State.

Republicans are quick to note that they have erased Democrats’ 100,000-person registration edge in the state and now lead in the registration fight — albeit narrowly. (As of early August, there were 620,584 registered Iowa Republicans and 598,995 registered Iowa Democrats, according to the Secretary of State.) And newly picked vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spent Monday in the state, a sign of the opportunity that Romney and Republicans believe they have to win,.

Polling in the state affirms the competitiveness of the contest. In the Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls, Obama takes 45.3 percent to Romney’s 44.3 percent and a May NBC/Marist survey showed the race literally tied at 44 percent apiece.

Democrats note that the narrowness of the likely Iowa margin is less a sign of Obama’s weakness in places where he was once strong than it is indicative of the Hawkeye State returning to its swing roots.

Mark Daley, a one-time senior staffer for Hillary Clinton’s Iowa presidential campaign, noted that George W. Bush carried the Hawkeye State by 1,000 votes in the 2004 general election and Al Gore won it by just 5,000 votes in the 2000 presidential race.

Still, that the sitting president of the United States is spending three full days riding around Iowa in a bus speaks to just how much things have changed since four years ago.

Unlike 2008, when Obama cruised to a massive victory with 365 electoral votes, this November the math is far less advantageous.

That means Iowa and its six electoral votes could well make the difference between winning and losing a second term for Obama.

“The state carries only six electoral votes, but if the tide shifts in other states, it could come down to Iowa,” said Daley.

Romney ad criticizes Obama for super PAC ad: A new TV ad from Romney’s campaign hits Obama for a super PAC ad that suggests Romney is responsible for the death of a woman.

“What does it say about a president’s character when his campaign tries to use a tragedy of a woman’s death for political gain?” the narrator asks as the YouTube version of the Priorities USA Action ad is shown.

The ad then flashes quotes from newspapers about the ad — words like “disgusting” and “scraping bottom.”

Of course, in contrast to what the ad suggests, Obama’s campaign is not running the ad; a super PAC which it cannot coordinate with is. Obama’s campaign has featured the man, Joe Soptic, in a conference call and a previous ad, but the ad leaves the impression that Obama’s campaign ran the ad that is currently controversial.

The ad also says Obama had “his campaign raise money for the ad and stood by as his top aides were caught lying about it.”

Again, this takes some liberties with the facts. While Obama has encouraged contributions to the super PAC, there is no evidence that he has asked for contributions specifically for the ad in question. And while some have suggested his campaign aides weren’t forthcoming when they said they weren’t familiar with Soptic’s story — especially since they had worked with him a few months prior — it’s not clear they were actually “lying about it.”

Romney’s campaign is attempting to force the issue, though, and make sure Obama aides continue to be pressed on the super PAC ad. It has been an uncomfortable situation thus far.

Fixbits:

A new Granite State Poll shows Obama ahead 49 percent to 46 percent in New Hampshire.

Obama attacks Ryan for the GOP House’s failure to pass a farm bill.

Ryan raised money in Denver on Monday.

Romney’s campaign denies he’s suffering from exhaustion and says he hit the gym Monday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching phone calls against 50 House GOP incumbents on Ryan’s budget.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will tie Elizabeth Warren (D) to Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment in a speech today. “She points to roads and bridges and government services we all use,” Brown will say, according to advance excerpts. “But to downplay individual initiative as nothing more than a byproduct of big government is to fundamentally misunderstand our free enterprise system, and it is a backward view of who we are as Americans.”

More than half of voters say debates are important to their vote choice, and nearly half say the choice of a running mate is as well.

In the Montana governor’s race, former congressman Rick Hill (R) raised twice as much as state Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) over the last month.

Former state senator Nancy Cassis, who lost a write-in bid to Kerry Bentivolio in the GOP primary for former congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-Mich.) seat, will continue her campaign in the special election for the final two months of McCotter’s term. The primary in that race is set for Sept. 5. Cassis is also upset that Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has endorsed Bentivolio.

Must-reads:

Understanding the Ryan plan” — Matt Miller, Washington Post

Shays’s Rebellion: The Last Yankee Republican Fights For His Political Life” — John Avlon, The Daily Beast

Could Ryan Tip Wisconsin Toward Romney?” — Micah Cohen, New York Times

Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, has a complicated record with little compromise” — David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

How Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan has reshaped presidential campaign” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

 
Read what others are saying