In Iowa visits, Obama dips into GOP strongholds

Associated Press Modified: September 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm •  Published: September 1, 2012

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — On his latest trip to Iowa, President Barack Obama again opted to split his time between Democratic-friendly territory and an area that typically backs Republicans.

Obama's first Iowa stop Saturday was in Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, and he then headed to Sioux City to speak at Morningside College.

The president has campaigned repeatedly in Iowa this summer and his trips usually have included stops in counties where he lost to Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. That includes Woodbury County, where Sioux City is located and where he lost to McCain by half a percentage point.

Democratic activists in northwest Iowa acknowledged that Republican Mitt Romney will almost certainly take more votes in the region, but they said the president's visits could help shrink the margin. Romney faces a similar challenge in urban areas, such as Des Moines and Davenport that typically favor Democrats.

"From Sioux City north, he won't win," said Kenneth Mertes, chairman of the Monona County Democratic Party. "Up there, in my perspective, it goes from 'Bad' to 'Oh, my gosh.' "

Still, Mertes said Obama may be able to tap the "enthusiasm gap" that he believes voters feel toward Romney and win in Sioux City.

Obama supporters who lined up at Morningside College praised his support for a federal wind-energy tax credit and his push to pass a farm bill, even as they acknowledged that he's a long-shot in the region.

"Boy, this is such a Republican area that I don't know that any Democrat could win," said Margery Tiedeman, 66, of Sheldon. "It's so lonesome out here."

Joanie McWilliams, 65, of Sioux City, said she was elated to see Obama. At the same time, she said, northwest Iowa has consistently elected U.S. Rep. Steve King, one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House.

"It's a tough area of the state," she said. "I think the president just has to keep coming forward with the truth — that he's not what the Republicans are trying to make him out to be."

Dan Risner, a night-shift factory worker and union member from Sioux City, said the president needs another term to revive the economy. Risner said he was angry with recent Republican efforts to weaken unions.

"There are a lot of people who are getting tough of all the conservative stuff," Risner said. "They're getting sick of working for nothing. People are getting tired of it."

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