The travel schedules for the 2008 campaign includes towns that have seldom – if ever – been visited by candidates in previous election cycles.
After delivering a speech and taking questions Monday from voters here in Clarion, a town of 3,000 people in north-central Iowa, Mr. Obama had one more item on his itinerary: a conversation with The Clarion Wright County Monitor.
As a dozen or so reporters for big-city papers, magazines and television networks packed their bags and headed to the next campaign stop, Mr. Obama lingered behind to chat with Barb Mussman, publisher of the weekly newspaper. For 17 years she has been putting out the paper, but never before has a presidential campaign offered an interview.
“In this job, you wouldn’t think you’d be affected by things like that,” she said. “But I laid awake half the night thinking of my questions.”
A campaign stop in Clarion, Iowa. (Photo: Eric Thayer for the New York Times)
For all the discussion over how the media is more apt to cover the horse-race aspect of the campaign – who’s up, who’s down – those were not the questions on Ms. Mussman’s mind. Instead, she asked about education and global warming, and she took notes on her yellow legal pad as a reporter for KHBT Radio in nearby Humboldt asked about Iran.
While Mr. Obama and the Democratic presidential hopefuls are spending more time in Iowa than any other state, their visits typically consist of breezing through town: They deliver a campaign speech, meet with a few local officials and take questions from voters before heading down the road to perform the routine all over again.
In this presidential election, where the Democrats are placing a far greater importance on the outcome in Iowa, candidates are scouring the state like never before for Democrats.