While Republican voters caucused for their candidate of choice, Iowa Democrats spent Tuesday night devising a way to keep President Obama in office.
Unlike 2008, Obama wasn’t in the Hawkeye state to meet and greet his supporters, though he did appear via webcam at caucus sites around Iowa in an attempt to energize his base.
With no opposition on the Democratic ticket, the president is assured the nomination. But, unlike 2008, the lack of competition revealed itself through a noticeable decrease in the frenetic energy that propelled Obama to the White House four years ago.
A cafeteria full of Democratic voters at Lincoln High School appeared relatively subdued yet determined to re-elect the president.
“I’m looking forward to hearing the issues tonight,” said Steve Barnes, a custodian for Des Moines schools and vice president of AFSCME Local 246. “Hopefully, the rallies start thriving again.”
In all, about 200 voters gathered in the Lincoln lunchroom to hear the president from afar and other speakers in person.
The scene was similar in gatherings in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, where Iowans cheered and waved blue banners when the president personally responded to questions from delegates among the groups.
“I think the main message we’re going to have in 2012 is that we’ve done a lot, but we’ve got a lot to do,” Obama said.
A Coralville questioner referred to one of Obama’s slogans from 2008: “It’s time for change.” That prompted the president to note that in some ways, he’s more optimistic now than he was in 2008 because he’s seen change take place.
Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie echoed that sentiment in his speech to the Lincoln High School crowd, reminding caucus-goers of what he sees as the president’s accomplishments over the last three years, including healthcare reform, tax cuts for working families and closing tax loopholes.
“He’s fighting for that and he needs our help,” he said. “It’s all of us together.”
Meanwhile, Republicans around the state disagreed en masse as they worked to get Obama out of the White House.
At Lincoln High School, where Republican and Democratic caucuses were separated by a hallway and a few classrooms, 57-year-old Dan Gray led what will likely be his last Democratic caucus after nearly 40 years as committeman for Precinct 65.
“I was about 18 when I started doing this,” he said. “I was raised in a very Democratic and pro-union household, so I’ve been knocking on doors since I was 4.”
Like many caucus-goers in Iowa and across the country, Gray will be out in the coming months in support of Obama.