Update From Iowa: Voting, Recent Obama Rally

Renee Montagne talks to Sandhya Dirks of Iowa Public Radio, who is visiting polling places in two Des Moines neighborhoods. One has a history of voting for more conservative candidates, the other, more liberal. President Obama held a big rally Monday in Des Moines — the last big campaign rally of his career.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Next, we go to Des Moines, Iowa where Sadhya Dirks of Iowa Public Radio joins us. Good morning.

SADHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: Morning.

MONTAGNE: And where did you start out this morning? I gather it wasn't Des Moines.

DIRKS: I was in a suburb of Des Moines. It's a more conservative part of Des Moines. It's Johnston, Iowa and I was at the Evangelical Free Church there, just talking to some voters and seeing what the turnout was like.

MONTAGNE: And what was it?

DIRKS: You know, we had a steady stream of people as well as a steady stream of rain. It's a really rainy morning in Des Moines but people are coming out anyways. And they were just trickling in, one by one, going to vote before work. And I talked to them. There were a lot of people at that particular polling place who talked about social issues being really important. And that polling place was tending to lean Republican today.

MONTAGNE: And we're speaking to you now at a different polling place, as we said, Des Moines. What's happening there?

DIRKS: It's the same sort of steady stream, but you've got a little bit of a different crowd. This is the First Christian Church near Drake University and we've got more students. A lot of them are crawling in, still in their pajamas.

MONTAGNE: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

DIRKS: Yeah. The fortitude against the cold. But the stream is sort of continuing steadily throughout the morning. A lot of people in Iowa have voted early, especially this year. There's been a huge focus, particularly by the Democrats, on early voting. I think four years ago, around 32 percent of Iowans early voted. This year they're predicting it might be up to 45 percent of Iowans who have already cast their ballot.

MONTAGNE: Right. So that would account to some degree for the steady but maybe not overwhelming stream of voters - because people have already cast their ballots. What do you know about those early votes? What's the information you have on that?

DIRKS: The information is that it heavily favors the Democrats and that's pretty much the received wisdom about that. Republicans didn't really start pushing early voting until the end of September which was when early voting began here. We've had, you know, 40 days of early voting in Iowa. The Democrats have been all over it. They've been hosting satellite popup polling places which are one-stop shops where you can register to vote and vote.

Sometimes at a supermarket, sometimes at a church, at various places. But today is more the traditional voting and it still seems to be getting quite a crowd.

MONTAGNE: Now, President Obama held a big rally last night there in Des Moines, the last big campaign rally of his career, and it would be a bit nostalgic because he really started out in Iowa. What was that like?

DIRKS: It was actually - it was kind of amazing, the swell of people that gathered right under the shadow of the capitol in downtown Des Moines. And Bruce Springsteen was there, so it was also a little bit of a rock concert feel. He really does have a personal connection to Iowa. He really - he continuously says this is where it all began. In fact, he was right in front of the first campaign office, his first field office, in Iowa where he was speaking last night.

So I think there was a sense of nostalgia for Iowans too, because those that support him, or supported him back then, have a feeling that they really did launch this man's presidency.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm wondering, though, if Iowans also think that - I mean, we're all concerned this vote won't be over by tonight, that it might drag on for all kinds of reasons. But there in Iowa, you know, in a way this is not the end. This could very well be the beginning of 2016. Is anybody talking about that?

DIRKS: You know, I think they're all trying to stay away from talking about that, but in the back of every Iowan's mind, while today is the 2012 election. We know that at any time someone could descend on the state and start campaigning for 2016. People tend - I mean, the campaign tends to start really here. And people are already, sort of, placing bets, secretly, about who's going to come here first and how much of a break, a window, in campaigning we will have.

I think in 2008 we had about a month before certain candidates started stumping here again.

MONTAGNE: Wow.

DIRKS: So really, the election never ends in Iowa.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. You might be able to measure it in hours this year. Who knows? But thank you very much. Sadhya Dirks of Iowa Public Radio giving us the news from Des Moines this morning. Appreciate you joining us.

DIRKS: Thanks so much, Renée.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: And on this Election Day, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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