Republicans, Democrats Energize Supporters in Eastern Iowa
By Addison Speck, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS — While Barack Obama supporters waited in line for tickets Saturday to see the President speak next week, local Republicans were anything but idle.
Instead, dozens of GOP volunteers held a ceremony for the opening of its “Victory Office” as part of a “Super Saturday” effort, which included canvassing neighborhoods and calling residents for surveys.
Republican Ben Lange was the keynote of Saturday’s event on Collins Road, briefly telling the crowd about the “power of the individual” as opposed to relying on the federal government. Lange — who is challenging incumbent Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa — stopped at the office before hitting the streets of Cedar Rapids with his message.
“There’s a reason I’m here in running shoes and shorts,” Lange said as two of his daughters tugged at his shirt. “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Looking at the broader focus of Republicans, Lange said the 1st Congressional District will “make or break” presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign in Iowa, which many pundits consider a critical swing state in 2012. President Obama’s heavy campaigning in Iowa puts an emphasis on Republicans’ efforts in the district, Lange said.
Iowa House Speaker Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, followed Lange, speaking to supporters about the importance of high voter turnout among conservatives.
“The most dangerous place to be on November 6 is between a Republican and a polling station,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen also said Obama’s continued presence in Iowa in recent months shows “the President is fighting an uphill battle.” Two years ago, when Obama’s campaign was mapping out its re-election strategy, it did not envision having to spend so much time in Iowa, he said.
For the volunteers, most cited the importance of the economy and jobs in the upcoming election, but others were also interested in other issues, like immigration policy. Emma Nemecek, a resident of Mount Vernon, said she spoke to Braley at Cedar Rapids’ Freedom Festival and was unimpressed.
Nemecek, who immigrated to the United States from the Phillipines, said she doesn’t like that some immigrants are “given a free ride” into the country when she had to follow the correct process.
And Nemecek’s general sentiment seemed to mirror that of the rest of the event’s attendees.
“A lot of people disapprove of Obama,” she said. “I want to get back to less government, less taxes, and more accountability.”
For the Democrats, lining up at the doors of Barack Obama’s Cedar Rapids campaign headquarters Saturday morning was worth the chance to see the president speak at Kirkwood Community College next week.
Obama campaign volunteers began doling out the free tickets around 11:30 a.m., a half hour before the doors to the event were scheduled to open. Still, supporters began waiting in line several hours before the tickets became available.
The President will be in town late on Tuesday morning, marking the ninth time either he, Vice President Joe Biden, or First Lady Michelle Obama will have been in Iowa since January.
Peggy Whitworth of Cedar Rapids, a campaign volunteer, said even though Obama has been to Iowa so many times, there’s still an “incredible number of people” who haven’t had the opportunity to see him. Whitworth called the long line outside the headquarters “tangible evidence of the support the president has.”
As the line got longer and the day got hotter, volunteers began to pass water to those waiting for tickets. Some patiently waited in line for up to 10 tickets for family members, while others grabbed two tickets so a spouse could see the president, too.
Hampton also stressed the importance of the economy in Obama’s re-election.
“I want him to get credit for the economy he’s turned around,” said Hampton, who began waiting in line for tickets at 10:30 a.m. “It didn’t take place in his first term, but it will in his second.”
The long line for tickets shows Obama’s continued popularity, he said.
But even supporters acknowledged Obama’s work is not complete. Whitworth said the economy will undoubtedly be the most important issue of the campaign and no one thinks it’s coming back quickly enough.
“I hope he’ll address the economic issues [in his speech on Tuesday],” Whitworth said. “He’ll basically be talking about his vision for the future.”
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