GOP vice presidential pick Paul Ryan will make his solo campaign debut in Iowa on Monday, competing with President Obama, who’s beginning a three-day trip to the key battleground state.
Obama is bringing his wife, popular first lady Michelle Obama, along with him — a sign the campaign is concerned about holding on to Iowa’s six electoral votes.
But when Obama begins his tour in the western part of the state, just up I-80, Ryan will be in Des Moines, visiting the Iowa State Fair.
The competing visits show how important the state is to both campaigns, but it has particular resonance for Obama — during his historic 2008 run, it was his victory at Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses that catapulted him into the upper tier of Democratic presidential contenders.
Then-Sen. Obama (Ill.) defeated then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards by healthy margins in the 2008 Democratic primaries, and the president defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by nearly 10 percent that year in the general election.
In recent weeks Obama has seen his fortunes improve nationally, and now leads presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 4.5 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
But the race is much tighter in the 12 swing states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election, and Obama returns to Iowa to find a much more competitive contest than the one in 2008.
While there has been little recent public polling of the state, Iowa is a true toss-up at this point — four of the last five public polls dating back to late May show Obama and Romney in a statistical dead heat, with the latest, a Rasmussen survey released last Friday, showing Romney with a 46-44 advantage.
Iowa has gone to the Democratic candidate in every election since 1988, but this year it appears Romney has a strong chance of winning the Dem-leaning state.