CEDAR RAPIDS — President Barack Obama will return to Iowa on Wednesday as part of his strategy to finish strong in the state that launched him on the road to the presidency four years ago.
Obama supporter Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, made the announcement of the visit at a presidential debate-watch party Thursday night at the Cedar Rapids Obama for America headquarters. A venue for the president’s third visit of the year to Cedar Rapids has not been determined.
Olson said advance teams are looking at possible sites for an event.
The announcement came after Obama’s national campaign leaders touted its lead in voter registration efforts and early voting. Coming 20 days before the election, the visit doesn’t reflect a response to any concern about the president’s campaign here, Obama for America national campaign manager Jim Messina said.
“Look, we’ve always said Iowa is a battleground state,” Messina said. “We continue to feel very good about our chances in Iowa. We have a lead, but we’re the Obama campaign. We’re not taking anything for granted.”
The numbers he and national field director Jeremy Bird see in Iowa are encouraging.
“I’m a data-driven guy,” Messina said in a conference call Thursday with reporters. “The first thing I read every morning are the numbers. Not poll numbers, but numbers that mean something to me: registered voters, ballots requested and early votes cast.
“Those numbers are telling the real story of this election,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign spokesman Shawn McCoy said the president is using “debunked metrics” to distract Iowans from another set of numbers — the national debt and unemployment.
In Iowa, Democrats lead in by-mail voting, in-person early voting, total voting and total ballots requested, Bird said. In fact, he said Obama has a wider margin than four years ago in ballots requested and ballots cast.
According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, 376,200 ballots have been requested — 111,877 from Republicans and 181,026 from Democrats, as of Oct. 10. Republicans have returned 50,032 ballots while Democrats have turned in 101,613.
Republicans, who didn’t start their early voting push as early as the Obama campaign, say they expect Democrats to maintain an early voting advantage. However, they see the numbers tightening and Republicans have shown a preference for Election Day voting.
So “it’s still a race,” Olson said. “I’ll put the strength of the Obama organization up against anyone’s.”
Those volunteers can persuade undecided voters and turn out Obama supporters in the final days of the campaign, Messina said.
Early voting efforts are turning out Obama supporters from 2008 who didn’t vote in 2010, Olson said.
“So there’s more of a story to is than simply the raw numbers,” he said, referring to voter registration gains Republicans made since the 2008 election.
Democrats are leading Republicans in voter registration in nearly every battleground state, Bird said. Democrats have increased their voter registration total by nearly 8,900 voters compared with July’s numbers while the GOP has gained 52 overall, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
However, the Democratic gains include “inactive” voters, some who may not have voted since before 2008. Among “active” voters, the secretary of state reports Republicans have a 10,892 voter advantage over Democrats.
Obama’s visit comes just six weeks since his Iowa City rally Sept. 7. Since June, he’s made 13 visits to Iowa, according to the Washington Post candidate tracker.
The president, who made Cedar Rapids his first stop after formally entering the 2008 presidential campaign, spoke at Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing the day after delivering the annual State of the Union speech to Congress and returned for a speech at Kirkwood Community College in July.