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Listen To Me: Spotlight Iowa

Voters in Des Moines, Iowa cast their ballots. Early voting in the state began last week. Photo by Alex Bruns

While most of Wednesday’s focus may be on Colorado, another nearby battleground state has been feeling the campaign love too: Iowa. GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan spent the last two days in the state, making campaigns stops in Dubuque and Clinton, among others.

The Hawkeye State, home to the Ames Straw Poll and the nation’s first caucuses, plays a key role in the election process. And, this year, it’s one of a few swing states that are expected to make the difference on Nov. 6.

In 2008, President Obama took the state by 10 percentage points but things are much tougher now. A recent poll conducted by the Des Moines Register found Mr. Obama with a 4-point lead over Mitt Romney.

So, how are Iowans feeling?

Many of the state’s voters interviewed for the NewsHour’s Listen To Me project said they were disillusioned with the political system itself.

“I think the political system is broken,” said Kelli Griffis. “When a person like myself, who can’t be a huge financial donor, can’t even get word one with any of the candidates, that’s a pretty broken system. Because those people are supposed to represent me.”

Jeff Ridenour agrees that there is a problem with the political system. “I think it is a lot of people being too willing to take and give, as opposed to doing what is right.”

He says the solution is imposing term limits on what he calls, “career” politicians. “Don’t let them stay there for a long time. That’s not what how the founding fathers started it. The founding fathers started it: everybody comes, takes a turn. They take their time, and they work together. And making career politicians, for the purpose of giving them a job, as opposed to trying to serve the people, does not help any of us.”

Iowans interviewed for the project cited a range of issues important to them this election cycle, including abortion, campaign finance and the economy.

Even though Iowa’s unemployment rate is three points lower than the national average (just over five percent), it is still an issue voters in the state are watching, according to WNYC reporter Anna Sale. She spoke with Hari Sreenivasan at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“Actually, political scientists think that when voters are aware that the national economy is not doing great, that becomes one of their major concerns, even if their county is doing relatively well,” Sale said.

Nicholas Valdez of Des Moines told us the unemployment picture is the most important issue. “Right now, I’m unemployed and I’m looking for a job,” he said. “And I want to work and support my family, support me and other people, and to pay my taxes, and do what I’m supposed to do.”

Early voting in Iowa started last week. Tune in to the NewsHour Wednesday night to see the story.

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