Ed Tibbetts

There may never have been a day like it in the Quad-Cities.

The two men seeking the most powerful political office in the world were in the same place on the same day on Aug. 4, 2004.

And the place was Davenport, Iowa.

The eyes of the world were on the Quad-Cities, when President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., campaigned in Davenport just a few blocks from each other.

Some dubbed it the "duel in Davenport." Bush held a large rally in LeClaire Park, drawing thousands of people, while Kerry met with business leaders at an economic forum at the RiverCenter. Reporters from around the world converged on the Quad-Cities.

Campaign officials on both sides swore the meeting was chance, and they explained it was bound to happen.

The presidential campaign was fought in about a dozen states, Iowa among them, and Kerry and Bush focused like a laser beam on those states.

In fact, the entire year was a blitz of political bombshells in Iowa and the Quad-Cities — from the presidential election to the ascendancy of a little known state senator named Barack Obama to a leadership role in the Democratic Party.

First, Iowa.

Not only was the state a battleground in the presidential election, but the year began with Kerry winning a stunning victory in the state's caucuses, giving him the momentum to seize his party‘s nomination.

Those same caucuses marked the beginning of the end of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's hopes with his now-infamous post-caucus "I have a scream" speech at the Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines.

The year continued to put Iowa in the national political spotlight with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack coming close to being chosen as Kerry's running mate. Eventually, the nod went to U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. And the year ended with Bush becoming the first Republican in 20 years to win the state's seven electoral votes.

The president and Vice President Dick Cheney blitzed the state with frequent visits, holding large outdoor rallies regularly attended by thousands of cheering supporters. Five of those visits were to the Quad-Cities.

Fears that Democrats might have an organizational advantage because of the caucuses quickly vanished as Republican volunteers turned out in droves to get out the vote. On Election Day, the Republican ticket won by 10,000 votes, dominating in Republican western counties and narrowing its losses in the traditionally Democratic eastern parts of the state. It was the first time a Republican won Iowa since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

In Illinois, state Sen. Barack Obama wowed the political establishment with a moving speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and immediately became a fresh face for the national party.

Obama, who was coming off a surprise win in a crowded primary in the spring, had little competition in the general election. His opponent, Republican Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race after allegations surfaced that he asked his wife at the time to have sex with him in a public place. Ryan's replacement, Alan Keyes, was little competition for Obama, whose campaign had so easy a time of it that he raised money for other Democrats even as Keyes was vainly trying to get back into the race.

Locally, congressional races were not as competitive as they have been in the past.

U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, won re-election easily over Democrat Bill Gluba, even as widespread speculation said the Manchester congressman might be a gubernatorial candidate in 2006. Across the river, U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., won a convincing victory over Republican Andrea Zinga, who tried to make the case that the effects of Parkinson's disease on Evans made him unfit for the office.

Politically, 2004 was a year Quad-Citians may never forget.

Ed Tibbetts can be contacted at (563) 383-2327 or etibbetts@qctimes.com.


Our weeklong look at 2004 Quad-Cities Newsmakers begins today on Page A4.

The U.S. presidential election ranks above the Iraq War in The Associated Press stories of the year. Page B1