(by S.A. Miller, January 4, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama of Illinois attracted so many supporters to a rally this week in Iowa City that the fire marshal had to turn people away when the cheering crowd inside a hotel ballroom topped 1,400.
At about the same time in nearby Cedar Rapids, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew about 60 people for a campaign event, though later that night about 800 turned out to see him in Des Moines.
Enthusiasm among Republican voters on the Iowa campaign trail rarely matched the crowds of eager Democrats, who turned out in record numbers last night. It reflects a doldrums afflicting conservative voters nationwide, despite slight improvements in President Bush’s low poll numbers and encouraging U.S. military gains in the war in Iraq.
In church halls and school gymnasiums across Iowa, Democratic candidates easily whipped up the crowds by railing against Mr. Bush and the war.
“It really is about George Bush and the condition the country is in,” said librarian Mary Kathryn Gepner, 65, who was attending a rally in Indianola for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat. “The Democrats have such good candidates that I could support any of them enthusiastically.”
Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Chris Allen said his party is blanketing the state and national Republican front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani isn’t even in the state. The former New York mayor was campaigning in Florida as he follows the unconventional strategy of skipping Iowa to concentrate on larger states that vote later.
Democrats are “hungry for bold transformational change,” said Eric Schultz, spokesman for Democratic candidate John Edwards.
Scott Rasmussen, president of the polling firm Rasmussen Reports, said Democratic voters are just more interested in the campaigns than are Republicans.
He noted that surveys show 90 percent of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa think their party will win the White House this year and only about two-thirds of Republicans say they will triumph. Democrats also are generally pleased with their entire crop of candidates, while Republicans are divided over candidates who are either too liberal on social issues or soft on foreign policy and defense.
“This is a very unusual circumstance for the Republican Party,” Mr. Rasmussen said.
Democrats estimated turn- out last night at a record 220,000, up from 124,000 in 2004, and nearly 115,000 Republicans took part. The last contested Republican caucuses in 2000 drew 87,666.
Tim Lakers, a Des Moines business executive and self-described conservative voter, said he favored Mr. Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination, but he said he might not show up for the caucus last night.
“I’m not sure I can agree that it is a good batch of conservative candidates,” said Mr. Lakers, 51. “I think it could be better.”
Even the star power of actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who bills himself as the only true conservative seeking the Republican nomination, only drew audiences of about 50 people during two weekends of campaign stops in the run-up to the caucuses.
Republican Party officials bucked the criticism.
Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan yesterday defended the party on Fox News, citing wins last year in two of three governor’s races, two special elections for Congress and several state legislative seats.
“Things are going our way,” he said. “And this [Iowa caucus] is a small step in the process that ends with the election of another Republican president in the United States.”
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
NOTE: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucus. The next primary is New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 8th.
1. List the reasons given for enthusiasm among Democratic voters.
2. Why are Republican voters believed to be unenthusiastic about the Republican candidates?
3. a) What percent of Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa think their party will win the White House this year?
b) How does this compare with Republicans?
4. a) How many Democrats attended last night’s Iowa caucus verses Iowa’s 2004 caucus?
b) How many Republicans attended last night’s Iowa caucus verses Iowa’s 2000 caucus (in 2004 George W. Bush was the incumbent)?
5. a) Are you enthusiastic about your party’s candidates for president? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.
6. a) Do you think your party’s candidate will win the presidential election this year? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.
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