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Enthusiasm -- and Signs of Trouble -- on Obama's Iowa Bus Route

By Tom Bevan - August 16, 2012

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It turns out Jarret Heil is a registered Republican, a former staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley and, not surprisingly, a supporter of Mitt Romney.

And at the final stop of Obama’s tour in Davenport on Wednesday, the national press corps was surprised to find Ross Murty, the co-owner of the Village Corner Deli, which catered the event, wearing a black T-shirt with big, bold white letters that read, “Government didn’t build my business. I did” -- a dig at Obama’s now-infamous remark in Virginia last month about small businesses.

If Obama’s three-day trek across Iowa proved that he could still rekindle a spark from 2008, the unscripted moments of his journey also proved that the Hawkeye State, like much of the rest of the country, is deeply divided over the president’s re-election.

The numbers tell the tale: Obama currently leads Romney by a single point in the RealClearPolitics Average for Iowa, and the most recent poll here shows Romney leading Obama by two points.

Romney’s campaign recently announced it had blown the lid off its fundraising goals in Iowa, raising $1.1 million in July alone, from more than 7,000 different donors.

Democrats counter that they have a superior grass-roots organization in the state, which they assert will make the difference in November.

The truth is that Iowa remains a critical swing state that is very much up for grabs -- an analysis confirmed by Obama’s decision to spend three full, precious days of the dwindling campaign there this week.

Obama’s team hopes that devoting attention to Iowa now will help put the state back in the president's column so they can focus on the bigger, more valuable (electorally speaking) swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia between now and Election Day.

If Obama is forced to return to defend Iowa again, however, he and his team may hear that haunting Springsteen refrain playing in their heads on November 6: “Lights out tonight, trouble in the Heartland . . .” 

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Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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