Split Polls In Iowa Boost State's Importance

President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney headed for the politically important states of Iowa and New Hampshire Friday. With the political conventions over and the jobs numbers out, Iowa Public Radio's Sarah McCammon checks in with voters in the swing state of Iowa to see how they're feeling about the candidates.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The bright lights of the political conventions dimmed. President Obama and Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail Friday. Both candidates headed for the politically critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire. We asked reporters in those both those places to find out how voters are feeling about the two questions that dominated the conventions: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? And which presidential candidate has the best plan for country? We go first to Sarah McCammon of Iowa Public Radio.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: On their own, Iowa's six electoral votes aren't exactly a huge prize. But just like the nation as a whole, polls here are largely split, so six votes could become all-important. In this state with a relatively strong economy, the task for each candidate is persuading voters he has the best vision for the next four years.

BRETT LOGAN: I'm far better off than four years ago, but I'm not sure the man in charge right now is the reason for it. I think you make your own opportunities.

MCCAMMON: That's 29-year-old Brett Logan of suburban West Des Moines. He was eating lunch yesterday at a barbecue joint in downtown Des Moines. He says life is really coming together for him. He got out of the Air Force in 2008, got a good job in insurance, and was recently married. Logan says he's still undecided about how he'll vote. He thinks he'd get a tax break under Obama, but not under Romney. But he disagrees with the president's approach on issues like health care and Medicare.

LOGAN: I like about half of both of their plans, honestly. It's going to be a tough one for me.

MCCAMMON: Thirty-year-old Jason Wacker also works in insurance, an industry that provides lots of middle-class jobs in this city.

JASON WACKER: I personally think we are worse. The debt has dramatically increased. At the same time, jobs, while they might be good here in Des Moines, overall, around the country they're not.

MCCAMMON: Iowa's unemployment rate is a little more than 5 percent, three points lower than the nation's numbers. But around the corner at a vegetarian cafe, Jenny Forker says she's not better off. Forker lost her insurance industry job this year, a loss she blames partly on the economy.

JENNY FORKER: That was hard. I'd never lost my job before, never been unemployed, so it was a big change.

MCCAMMON: But Forker, who is 41 and now works at the cafe, doesn't blame President Obama.

FORKER: He's the only candidate I think women should be voting for, because I think he actually cares about women. I think he cares about grassroots efforts and activism. And I'm excited to see what he's going to do.

MCCAMMON: That is if voters decide to give him four more years. Both campaigns say Iowa is key to their strategies and voters should get ready for a lot more attention before November. For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon in Des Moines.

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