Sources Say Obama to Visit Cedar Rapids Area Likely Next Week

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

LINN COUNTY, Iowa - President Obama will return to Linn County as part of his strategy to finish strong in the state that launched him on the road to the presidency four years ago.

"Look, we've always said Iowa is a battleground state," Obama for America national campaign manager Jim Messina said Oct. 11. "We continue to feel very good about our chances in Iowa. We have a lead, but we're the Obama campaign. We're not taking anything for granted."

So in the waning days of his re-election campaign, the president will be back in Linn County where he made his first stop after officially entering the 2008 presidential race.

Although sources in Iowa would not speak on the record, they said advance teams are or soon will be looking at venues for a presidential visit Oct. 17 either in Cedar Rapids or in Mount Vernon, most likely at Cornell College. The weather forecast might be a factor in determining whether the event is indoors or outdoors, according to one source.

Obama's visit comes even as his national campaign leaders were touting its lead in voter registration efforts and early voting.

"I'm a data-driven guy," Messina said in a conference call with reporters. "The first thing I read every morning are the numbers. Not poll numbers, but numbers that mean something to me: registered voters, ballots requested and early votes cast.

"Those numbers are telling the real story of this election," he said.

The Romney campaign said the president is using "debunked metrics" to distract Iowans from another set of numbers — the national debt and unemployment, according to Republican Mitt Romney's campaign.

"President Obama has failed to explain to Iowans why he should be re-elected after four years of trillion-dollar deficits, rising health care and energy prices, and 21 tax hikes, including a new tax on millions of middle-class Americans," said Romney spokesman Shawn McCoy.

A second Obama term will deliver "more of the same," he said. Romney, by contrast, will deliver a "real recovery with pro-growth tax reforms that create millions of good-paying jobs and greater prosperity for all Americans."

According to the Obama campaign's Iowa numbers, Democrats lead in by-mail voting, in-person early voting, total voting and total ballots requested, national field director Jeremy Bird said.

In fact, Bird said Obama has a wider margin than four years ago in ballots requested and ballots cast.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, 376,200 ballots have been requested – 111,877 from Republicans and 181,026 from Democrats, as of Oct. 10. Republicans have returned 50,032 ballots while Democrats have turned in 101,613.

Republicans conceded they didn't start their early voting as early as the Obama campaign. While they expect Democrats to maintain an early voting advantage, the numbers are tightening. They claim nine straight reports of exceeding Obama in absentee ballot returns. Each day the Romney-Ryan campaign is getting closer to the margin it needs to ensure victory, a spokesperson said, prefer Election Day voting. Also, Republicans have shown a preference for Election Day voting.

So "it's still a race," said Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids. However, he believes it will come down to the ground game played by Obama volunteers.

"I'll put the strength of the Obama organization up against anyone's," Olson said.

Those volunteers can both persuade undecided voters and turn out Obama supporters in the final 26 days of the campaign, Messina said.

Early voting efforts are turning out Obama supporters from 2008 who didn't vote in 2010, Olson said.

"So there's more of a story to is than simply the raw numbers," he said, referring to voter registration gains Republicans made since the 2008 election.

Democrats are leading Republicans in voter registration in nearly every battleground state, Bird said. Democrats have increased their voter registration total by nearly 8,900 voters since July while the GOP has gained 52, according to the Secretary of State's numbers.

However, the Democratic gains include "inactive" voters, some who may not have voted since before 2008. Among "active" voters, the secretary of state reports Republicans have a 10,892 voter advantage.

Obama's visit comes just six weeks since his Iowa City rally Sept. 7. Since June, he's made 13 visits to Iowa, according to the Washington Post candidate tracker.

The president has visited Cedar Rapids twice this year. He spoke at Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing the day after delivering the annual State of the Union speech to Congress and returned for a speech at Kirkwood Community College in July.
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