First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama’s campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama’s campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney’s campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I’ve also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.

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Medicaid abortion funding ban a bridge too far for Branstad administration

Opposing all government funding for abortion is settled dogma among Iowa Republican activists and elected officials. For two years in a row, Senate Democrats have blocked attempts to write new restrictions on Medicaid abortion coverage into the budget for the state Department of Human Services. Now DHS Director Chuck Palmer has signaled that taking control of the upper chamber may not give Republicans the power to restrict the choices of low-income women.

Palmer’s action puts Governor Terry Branstad in an awkward position, and a legislature completely under GOP control could create a political nightmare for Branstad, a proud “pro-lifer” throughout his career.

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A closer look at the Iowa House vote for traffic camera ban

After several hours of delay due to a suspicious powder mailed to State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, the Iowa House passed a bill last night to ban local governments from using “automated traffic law enforcement systems.” The 58 to 40 vote didn’t follow the usual party lines in the chamber. The bill wouldn’t have passed without some support from House Democrats.

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Lockdown at state capitol: Abdul-Samad receives letter with suspicious powder

The Iowa capitol is currently under lockdown. Sometime before 4 pm this afternoon, State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s clerk was opening mail in the Iowa House chamber while House members were debating a bill on banning traffic cameras. One envelope contained white powder and a threatening message. According to a source inside the House chamber, powder got on the clerk, Abdul-Samad, and the carpet. Radio Iowa reported that debate was suspended at 3:47 pm. About an hour later, visitors were asked not to leave the building.

As of 5:30 pm, two yellow-suited hazmat workers are in the House chamber trying to determine whether the white powder is dangerous. Other than Abdul-Samad, who was taken to another room, most of the state representatives are in the chamber, as are many of their clerks and Iowa House Republican and Democratic staff. Some lobbyists are in the House gallery, having taken seats there to watch debate before the lockdown.

UPDATE: Further news on this story is after the jump.

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First look at Democratic prospects for Iowa House gains

The redistricting process and several Republican retirements have created many pickup opportunities for Iowa House Democrats. The devastating 2010 election left them nowhere to go but up in the lower chamber, where Republicans currently enjoy a 60 to 40 majority. Relatively few sitting House Democrats represent vulnerable districts.

Speaking to activists at the Polk County Democratic convention on March 10, I heard lots of optimism about the House races. After the jump I’ve posted some early thoughts on the seats up for grabs.

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