DES MOINES — Iowans this month are getting a sneak preview of the 2012 presidential campaign with Republicans hammering President Obama in the run up to Saturday’s Ames straw poll and the president and his Democratic surrogates trying to counter the negative GOP messages being hurled at independent voters on a daily basis.
Doug Gross, a Des Moines attorney and GOP activist, said Democrats who are taking special interest in Iowa this week are facing the same problem Republicans confronted eight years ago when President Bush was unchallenged for his re-election bid and Democrats had a hotly contested presidential primary season where they controlled the message and the issues being discussed in a key battleground state that holds the lead spot in the nominating process.
“That’s what is happening now, we’re talking about Republican issues and we’re controlling the messaging, and as a result it can tend to hurt the incumbent,” Gross said.
“Iowa’s a swing state so it’s critically important how these things are perceived by independent voters,” he added. “What the Democrats are doing by coming in here is trying to put a little rain on our parade and trying to get some messages through to the independents that there’s another alternative. We would have done the same thing and I understand why they’re doing it.”
Derrick Plummer, regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats have launched a week-long effort in Iowa intended to focus on what they view as “extreme” positions being touted by GOP presidential candidates that are aimed to please members of their party’s “far-right, Tea Party wing” but not seniors and middle-class Iowans.
He said roundtable discussions that began in Davenport on Monday and make a stop in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday at the Ecumenical Community Center at 601 2nd Avenue SE # 1 before moving on to Sioux City and Des Moines are designed “to make sure our voice is heard and that people get an opportunity to hear the other side.” The national party will “have a presence on the ground” later this week when DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Brad Woodhouse travel to Iowa.
Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader and a former GOP gubernatorial candidate, said the contrasting views from the two parties in Iowa this week “will be a good sampling” of the issues that will be fought out in 2012 over who controls the White House for the next four years. He said the Democratic response is an indicator that the GOP messages that Iowans have been hearing have struck a nerve with the opposition.
“They’re seeing Republicans and conservatives dominate the message, dominate the papers,” he said, “my guess is they feel that Obama’s taking a significant hit here right now and it is a toss-up state so they need to have a presence here as well as bringing the president out to try to bolster up those numbers.”
White House officials have announced that President Obama will make a stop in Iowa as part of an upcoming three-day Midwest bus tour – an event that comes days after many of the GOP presidential candidates participate in a nationally televised debate in Ames on Thursday – an event that also will draw Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day — and the Iowa party’s presidential straw poll is held Saturday. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn announced Monday that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chairman Sharon Day will attend the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate.
Obama’s Aug. 16 White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta has been billed as a meeting where small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations and government officials will discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns.
However, Vander Plaats said “I definitely see the president’s move to come to Iowa more campaign related than office-holder related.”
Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition and Iowa member of the Republican National Committee, said the national Democrats’ presence in Iowa is evidence they are feeling the political heat.
“I think they understand that their message of bigger and bigger government and spending us into oblivion – Iowans are beginning to catch on to that and are becoming educated and they’re not going to put up with any more. There’s going to be a clear repudiation of Obama and his policies at the polls a year from November,” Scheffler said.
“Sure, they’ve got to come and perpetuate their baloney, which has no validity. I guess they’re mouthing the words and they’re hoping and expecting people to buy something if it’s repeated often enough,” he added. “They can come here and spin it all they want, but Iowans will see through all that stuff. They got taken in my Obama once when they supported him in the caucuses of 2008, but Iowans in the general election are going to repudiate that, I guarantee you.”
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