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Iowa still in national spotlight


We Iowans are a fortunate lot. Every four years, the nation turns to our state to start the process of winnowing the field of presidential candidates. We have a chance to meet, face to face, the men and women who aspire to the White House. It’s a role that residents of some larger, more diverse states mock and almost everyone envies. This year, though, our time in the spotlight seems to stretch toward infinity.

The Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards campaigns have visited Iowa so many times that we’re sure they can list every food variety ever deep-fat-fried and served on a stick at the Iowa State Fair. Whether they’re for fried Snickers on a stick one day and against it the next day is another matter entirely. Last week alone, President Bush favored Iowans with two visits, to the Farm Progress Show nearAlleman on Tuesday and to Cedar Rapids on Friday. Who knew little Iowa was that important?

In the wake of the 2000 election, when Al Gore carried Iowa with a slim 5,000-vote cushion – about 0.3 percent of the total votes cast – political strategists are leaving little to chance. The courtship of Iowa’s uncommitted voters illustrates both the closeness of the race and the importance of Iowa’s seven electoral votes, which are of little concern in more lopsided races.

In fact, the hunt for votes is so intense that the two candidates ended up campaigning in the same Eastern Iowa town on the same day to campaign. The irony of dueling candidates in Davenport is delicious. Though separated by a gulf in ideology, they spoke only a few city blocks away from each other. The heavy security the visits required allowed bank robbers to strike three times during the campaign speeches.

It all adds up to a politically bizarre year for Iowans, opened with Democrat Howard Dean’s high-pitched and well-publicized scream during his concession speech following the Iowa caucuses in January.

Such is the beauty of being a voter in a swing state, where no-party registrations outnumber those declaring affiliation with either the Democrats or the Republicans.

We’re flattered by all the attention. Really we are. We just hope that whoever occupies the White House next January won’t forget us and all the promises they made while courting our seven electoral votes.

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