Democrats invest heavily in Iowa

Democrats have wagered more on Iowa than their GOP counterparts.

ByThomas Beaumont, Des Moines Register

Oct. 24, 2007 — -- Democratic candidates for president have wagered vastly more on Iowa than their Republican counterparts, a sign the state's caucuses are seen as more pivotal to the Democrat nomination.

Consider this: John Edwards and Barack Obama each have more staff in Iowa than all of the Republican caucus campaigns combined, with Hillary Clinton close behind.

Even the Democratic field's lesser-known candidates have built caucus organizations several times the size of some of the best-known Republicans' operations, according to a review of several criteria by The Des Moines Register.

The Republican national frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, spent 62 consecutive days away from Iowa before returning last week.

One reason for the disparity is Democrats have raised more money than Republicans and have a lot more to spend with less than two months until the caucuses.

Another is that the Iowa caucuses have traditionally been less decisive a contest for the GOP nomination.

But the intensity of the Democratic campaign compared to the Republican contest in Iowa also is a sign the state is the place where Clinton is most vulnerable.

"I think the Democratic challengers to Hillary see Iowa as their best chance to become the anybody-but-Hillary candidate," Georgetown University political science professor Stephen Wayne said.

There are stories about each party that emerge from the campaign activity reported by the campaigns and found in Federal Elections Commission reports.

One factor is staff size, a measure of strength in caucus campaigns where recruiting and keeping track of supporters is labor intensive.

Obama, an Illinois senator, had 145 Iowa employees in September, according to third-quarter reports filed last week. Edwards, a former North Carolina senator who ran four years ago, had 130 on the ground.

Clinton had 117 employees in Iowa, where polls have shown the New York senator in a tight race for the caucuses with Edwards and Obama. Iowa is the only early nominating state where Clinton, the party's national frontrunner, is not comfortably ahead of her Democratic opponents.

The intensity of the three top campaigns in Iowa is noticeable in their Cedar Rapids offices, said Mike Robinson, Democratic chairman for Linn County, Iowa's second-most populous county.

"As far as organizations go, I am very impressed by Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's campaigns," said Robinson, who said he plans to remain neutral for the caucuses.

A regular visitor to the half-dozen Cedar Rapids campaign headquarters, Robinson described Clinton's, Edwards' and Obama's offices as bustling.

"They are always introducing me to some new staffer they've brought in," he said. "The other offices are kind of Spartan." Even the Democrats competing in Iowa who trail the top three candidates have more staff than almost every Republican.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd each have more than 70 staff in Iowa. Both showed fewer on their campaign finance reports, although aides said the campaigns had added staff since Oct. 1.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden had 30 Iowa staff, aides said, also fewer than listed in his report.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the largest paid Iowa organization among Republicans with 67 people, according to his report.

The closest any other Republicans come are former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, each with 12 staff.

However, Thompson has put his staff together since entering the race six weeks ago, while Giuliani made his first Iowa hire in February.

John McCain's staff has grown since it was cut sharply in July due to financial problems. Meanwhile, there was little growth in other GOP camps, except Ron Paul's, which numbers five staff members in light of the Texas congressman's $5-million fundraising last quarter.

Staff numbers are only one measure of organization. Another is how those aides spend their time.

Romney is routinely mentioned by GOP activists around Iowa as a candidate whose staff is in regular touch with party leaders.

Barb Livingston, Marshall County GOP chairwoman, said Romney aides are regulars at her monthly party meetings. Aides for McCain, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, and little-known Chicago businessman John Cox also are often there, she said.

"I've also been getting a lot of calls from the Thompson field staff in Iowa," said Livingston, who does not plan to endorse a candidate before the caucuses. "We hear from Giuliani the least in Marshall County." How often and where the candidates visit Iowa is another indicator of organization in Iowa and shows how broad the campaigns' reach stretches.

Marshall County, about 45 miles northeast of Des Moines, is a common campaign stop for candidates in either party, with roughly 8,000 Republicans and slightly fewer Democrats.

In 12 days of campaigning in Iowa, Giuliani has not been there, while all of his GOP opponents have.

For the Democrats, Edwards has ventured deepest into Iowa this year, having campaigned in 91 counties. He is on pace to repeat his 2004 campaign's visit to all 99 counties, which helped propel him to second place in the caucuses and has raised expectations for him in 2008.

Biden has spent almost 60 days in Iowa, the most of any candidate in either party. Dodd may challenge him for that distinction in light of his wife Jackie's planned move to Des Moines this month with the couple's two young daughters.

Of the six most active Democrats in Iowa, Clinton has visited Iowa least and touched the fewest counties, although she has reached into rural Iowa.

Clinton campaigned in Carroll and Sioux counties Saturday, bringing her total to 37.

While Edwards has been the most aggressive in rural Iowa, Richardson and Obama have gained notice from Democrat activists in less-traveled areas.

Richardson has campaigned in 80 counties, including rural Adair County last week. Obama has been in almost 60, but also has offices in 31 Iowa cities, the most in either party.

"I would say Obama, Clinton and Edwards are the best organized down here, with Richardson starting to get more organized," said Cheryll Jones, Democratic chairwoman in Davis County in rural southeast Iowa. Jones supports Clinton.

For the Republicans, little-known Chicago businessman John Cox has been in 60 counties. Of the better-known candidates, Romney has campaigned in the most Iowa counties, 55, while Tancredo has spent the most days the state, 51.

Republican campaign traffic has slowed noticeably since the Ames straw poll, an early test of Iowa campaign organization which drew more than 14,000 to Iowa State University on Aug. 11.

Most noticeably absent has been Giuliani, not just at the straw poll. In that span between Giuliani's Aug. 15 and Oct. 17 visits, Thompson made his first three trips to Iowa, nearly matching Giuliani's total days in Iowa and counties visited.

The GOP lull and organizational disparity is a sign more Republicans view contests after the caucuses as more make-or-break, while Democrats see Iowa as ground zero, presidential campaign scholar Larry Sabato said.

"On the Democratic side, it is quite possible that everything will come down to Iowa, and that is bound to drive up expenditures all around," said Sabato, director of University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

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