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In Iowa, Obama toils while GOP roars, then departs

DES MOINES, Iowa — One presidential campaign claims an impressive effort in Iowa this year: eight offices opened, 350,000 phone calls to potential supporters and 1,280 events to recruit and train volunteers.

It's not Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. It's Obama for America, the president's re-election campaign, which badly wants to win this battleground state in November, as it did in 2008.

"The Republicans are here today, gone tomorrow," said Obama volunteer Pat Walters, of Johnston, a suburb of Des Moines. "We've been doing this since 2009."

Next Tuesday's Republican caucus has dominated political conversations. Largely overlooked is that Obama is running unopposed in the Democratic caucus the same night.

It's a dramatically different scene from four years ago, when Obama set his course for the White House by beating John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton after months of intense campaigning in Iowa.

Obama can coast as far as this year's nomination is concerned. But Iowa remains a general election swing state, and no one assumes his 9-point win here over John McCain in 2008 will give him a cushion in November.

Obama's campaign never entirely left Iowa or several other competitive states, where he hopes relentless organizing can overcome a weak economy and his mixed record of fulfilling campaign pledges in the face of strong GOP opposition in Congress.

Nowhere does Obama have a bigger base to build on than in Iowa, where he campaigned for months in 2007. Romney, Gingrich and other GOP contenders have not made comparable efforts, although they say the economy and other issues will make Obama's task much harder next year.

In activities that rarely compete with the hoopla of the GOP nominating contest, Obama's campaign has placed a handful of paid staffers in each of several key states. They try to leverage their clout by training scores of volunteers. The volunteers, in turn, knock on doors, organize house parties and, above all, place phone calls to voters in hopes of identifying likely Obama supporters and tracking them through Election Day.

In a tortoise-versus-hare strategy, Obama supporters hope their steady chugging will build support precinct by precinct, town by town, while Republicans spend resources chasing the nomination for a few more weeks or months.

In Iowa, Obama toils while GOP roars, then departs 12/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 11:22pm]
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