DES MOINES — Iowa is the state that launched President Obama four years ago, and the state that bedeviled Mitt Romney in two primary cycles, even if he was temporarily named the winner this year before all votes were counted. So in addition to its six electoral votes, Iowa holds great symbolic significance in this year’s presidential race.
Romney stumped here Sunday morning, his second visit in two days. He urged his supporters to reach out to disenchanted backers of the president and persuade them that a change in direction is vital for the nation’s future.
“I need your vote, I need your work, I need your help. Walk with me. We’ll walk together. Let’s begin anew. I need Iowa,” he told thousands gathered in a convention center. “I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America, keep it strong, make sure we always remain the hope of the Earth. I’m counting on you.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, said the state that made Obama will take him down.
“Iowans feel betrayed. Almost a sense of — not only disappointed but almost a sense of betrayal that our principles of sound budgeting and responsible government have been ignored by this administration for four straight years,” he said. “Iowa's message for Obama is: It’s time for a change. It’s time for you to go back to Chicago.”
A new poll by the Des Moines Register released Saturday night showed Obama up by five points. But Republicans seized upon it because the same poll four years ago vastly overstated Obama’s support in the state, showing Obama leading by 17. He ended up winning by 9.5 points.
They were also heartened by the Register’s endorsement of Romney, the first time the state’s largest paper endorsed a Republican in four decades, and also notable because of its staunch support for Obama four years ago. It’s unclear how much voters care about endorsements, but the tone of the endorsement – sadness and regret about Obama’s inability to fulfill his potential, and a conclusion that Romney offered a better chance at righting the nation’s economy – echoed one of the Romney camp’s own lines of argument to voters.
After Romney thanked various politicians at the morning rally, he said, “And a special shout-out to the Des Moines Register. Thanks for your endorsement.”
Iowa is doing better economically than much of the nation, leading Romney to highlight the nation’s debt and federal spending in his appeal here. The stereotype of the frugal Midwesterner is rooted in truth – the state has the lowest per-capita credit card debt in the nation.
“I’m going to move to tackle out-of-control spending. I will send Congress the first of several fundamental reforms called the Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act,” Romney said. “You see, we are going to cut not just slow the rate of growth, but actually cut non-security discretionary spending by 5%. Because I’m not just going to take office on Jan. 20th, I’m going to take responsibility for the office as well.”