As GOP votes, Obama will rally Iowa Democrats for November fight

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WASHINGTON — Democrats, too, will be caucusing in
Iowa next Tuesday night. But for Team Obama, the meetings of party
activists are all about November.

As the GOP sorts through its choices in the
Republican caucuses, President Barack Obama will be directly engaging
with Iowa Democrats in an attempt to rally his base in a state that also
serves as a key general election battleground.

Turnout for the Democratic caucuses is expected to be
far lower than the nearly 240,000 who turned out in 2008, when Iowa
Democrats handed Obama a surprise victory that set him on the path to
the White House.

Still, the Obama campaign is keen to see a sizable
showing, and it hopes the opportunity to hear from the president is
enough of a draw.

A message on the state Democratic Party website says
the party “must be able to show that we’re committed to President
Obama’s reelection,” and that having “strong, well-run Democratic
caucuses will show the nation that we’re ready for what’s ahead.”

“We are taking the long view of this,” Obama campaign
spokesman Ben Finkenbinder said. “Our organization is focused on
winning in November.”

Obama will address those who attend Democratic
caucuses through streaming video software Adobe Connect, which will
allow supporters to address questions to the commander in chief. It’s a
new tool the campaign has added to its arsenal for the 2012 campaign as
it seeks to build on the innovations used in the 2008 effort.

The campaign has also been hard at work with more
traditional voter engagement. It has eight offices open in the state —
more than most of the Republicans. Volunteers have made 350,000 calls to
supporters in Iowa, and held 4,000 one-on-one conversations.

“The 3rd is a great organizing opportunity for us,” Finkenbinder said. “This is the next step in building our organization.”

Politico reported Wednesday that Obama campaign
officials hope Democratic turnout next week will beat the turnout for
Republicans in 2004 when George W. Bush was seeking reelection.

Then, rather than showcase the president, Bush’s
campaign had a team of surrogates deployed at caucus locations
throughout the state. But one day after the caucuses, which were won by
Democrat John Kerry, Bush delivered his election year State of the Union
address.

A week later as the focus shifts to New Hampshire,
the Obama campaign will make a similar effort there. The campaign
announced Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will stream in to
address supporters gathered at house parties throughout the state on the
night of the nation’s first primary.

The Obama campaign has three offices currently open in New Hampshire, with plans to open four more by primary day.

Both the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic parties,
in cooperation with the Democratic National Committee, also plan to hold
events in each state where surrogates will respond to Republican
attacks on the president’s record.

Mobilizing Democratic supporters in both states is
critical given that Republicans have been camped out there for months
hammering him. A new NBC/Marist poll put Obama’s job approval rating in
Iowa at just 43 percent.

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©2011 Tribune Co.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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