On the Ground in Iowa

Iowa is in the spotlight again as America's first presidential caucus on January 3 nears. Coincidentally, my day job found me traveling across various portions of President Herbert Hoover's home state on a bi-weekly basis the past four months, and I was able to gather views from a diverse group of people while making these treks.

In January 2008, Mike Huckabee won the state's Republican caucus, and Barack Obama took the Democratic caucus. Ten months later in the general election, the former Illinois senator prevailed by ten points over John McCain. Though that was the same margin as traditionally liberal Minnesota, the Hawkeye State has a more regional voting bloc. The rural west toward the Missouri River is more conservative, while the larger cities and Mississippi River towns to the east lean Democrat.

Dubuque Town Clock

Amanda Lawson is a 23-year-old copywriter/media specialist in scenic Dubuque (home to a strong economy), which sits along the border with Illinois and Wisconsin in a county Obama won by 17 points in the general election. But Amanda, a Wisconsin native who graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, actually moved right in college, tiring of liberal bias. She's now a registered Iowa Republican who supported McCain last time around and prefers Newt Gingrich on January 3:

Many of Gingrich's ideas align with mine in relevance of importance. His recognition of President Reagan as someone who told the truth and went above and beyond to do what's right, rather than what's easiest, builds my confidence in him as a strong leader for our country.

Lawson can also see how "a more conservative view" might have greater success among Republicans in 2012:

Rick Perry's very open views on the importance of religion in our country's survival may draw individuals ready to see an extreme change from what the Obama administration provided.

Freedom Rock in Western Iowa

Tony Nelson is also 23, and hails from a large Christian family in Council Bluffs, a western Iowa town bordering the Missouri River and Nebraska. This is Pottawattamie County, a growing area closing in on being the sixth Iowa county with more than 100,000 residents. McCain prevailed here by two points over Obama.

Nelson, a loss mitigation specialist, has a business degree from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where he received a Baptist education. He likes Ron Paul, but will support Gingrich next month. Begrudgingly, he believes Mitt Romney has the best shot to unseat Obama:

Though Ron Paul's foreign policy views trouble me, he's the only one with the guts to get the country out of debt, even if by drastic measures. But Paul lacks support, so by default I hope Romney is the choice. Newt has too much baggage.

State Capitol Building, Des Moines

Tom Lindaman is a 42-year-old mortgage specialist in Des Moines, which sits in Polk County, Iowa's largest. Expectedly, Obama triumphed here in 2008 by 14 points. Lindaman is politically active, having spoken at his local caucus last primary season. He doesn’t like "moderates" such as Romney, Huntsman, or Gingrich, echoing some voices from a recent Ron Radosh PJM piece:

A moderate Republican puts the party in the same position as under George W. Bush and John McCain. Although this would please the centrists, fewer conservatives want to settle for the lesser of two evils. They want a leader, not a plate of Jello.

Lindaman supported Herman Cain before the businessman dropped out December 3. Additionally, he believes Michele Bachmann would have "no trouble beating Obama if she were given a fair chance by the RNC." Lindaman also prefers Rick Santorum over the aforementioned "moderate" Republicans.