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With Big Parties Over, It's Back To Small-Population Swing States

President Obama's campaign bus is parked in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Aug. 13. On Friday, Obama was scheduled to return to the swing state for more campaigning.
Jim Watson
AFP/Getty Images
President Obama's campaign bus is parked in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Aug. 13. On Friday, Obama was scheduled to return to the swing state for more campaigning.

On the heels of the quadrennial political extravaganzas, it's back to the day-to-day work of winning the election. On Friday, that means the focus returns to a pair of small-population states with relatively few electoral votes.

The day after he formally accepted his party's nomination, President Obama and an entourage including first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were scheduled to campaign in Portsmouth, N.H., and at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney was keeping a similar schedule Friday, campaigning on the campus of Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, before heading to an evening rally in Nashua, N.H.

Whoever wins the Nov. 6 election will need 270 electoral votes to become president. Iowa can offer only six of those electoral votes; New Hampshire has four.

But if the Republican convention last week and the Democratic version that ended last night weren't proof enough, the candidates' schedules show that both sides think every available electoral vote could make the difference.

"We can't say, 'Just six votes' when we talk about Iowa," explains Dennis Goldford, a politics professor at Drake University in Des Moines.

He notes that the 2000 presidential election ended with 271 electoral votes for Republican George W. Bush; 266 electoral votes for Democrat Al Gore.

"Iowa's six electoral votes are more than enough to cover a margin like that," says Goldford. "So obviously, at this point at least, both campaigns clearly think that the race will be so close that even six electoral votes matter."

In Iowa, which played a pivotal role in launching Obama's campaign four years ago, the candidates are neck and neck. Polls suggest a slight lead for Obama in New Hampshire.

The president's return to Iowa comes less than a week after he campaigned in the Des Moines area and in western Iowa last weekend. That followed an appearance at Iowa State University in Ames on Aug. 28 and a three-day swing through Iowa earlier in August.

Romney has spent less time in Iowa recently, last visiting on Aug. 22. His running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the state. Campaign officials say Iowa is important to the overall strategy, and more appearances by both Romney and Ryan are expected before November.

Sarah McCammon reports for Iowa Public Radio.

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Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.

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