October 13, 2004


Ready for Old-Fashioned Ground War (Dan Balz, October 11, 2004, Washington Post)

Democrats have carried Iowa each of the past four presidential elections, a victory string matched by just eight other states and the District of Columbia. But after Al Gore's narrow escape here in 2000, the Hawkeye state is anything but safe for John F. Kerry this year.

Gore defeated George W. Bush by 4,144 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast, and partisans here believe Iowa may be heading for a similarly close finish on Nov. 2. Between overlapping visits by Bush, Kerry, their running mates and surrogates and extensive organizational activity underway, Iowans have rarely seen a campaign with such intensity or unpredictability.

Iowa is as divided politically as is the nation as a whole. Democrats control the governor's office and all but one of the executive offices, but the GOP controls the legislature. Republicans have a 4 to 1 edge in the congressional delegation, while Iowans have reelected Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D).

"What is it when you mix red and blue?" asked Gov. Tom Vilsack (D). "You get purple. That's what we are, a purple state. A state that can enthusiastically elect and reelect Chuck Grassley and that can enthusiastically elect and reelect Tom Harkin. We're very, very, very split."

Together with Minnesota and Wisconsin, Iowa makes up part of a trio of upper midwestern states where Democratic strength has been weakened in the past four years and where the Bush campaign sees the chance to defeat Kerry and to offset a potential loss in Ohio or Florida.

The Bush team put Iowa and its seven electoral votes on its 2004 target list immediately after the 2000 election, not only because of Bush's strong showing in many of the rural counties, but also because Iowa was one of 13 states where he exceeded his father's percentage from the 1988 election. To the Bush team, that said Iowa had become more hospitable political ground, despite its string of Democratic wins.

The Democrats may have spun themselves into a disaster after the first debate--they have any number of Blue states that are either still in play or have already tilted to the President, yet they're still playing at offense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 13, 2004 1:48 PM
Comments for this post are closed.