The most important swing state: Iowa?

In every calculation of how the candidates get to 270 electoral votes, Iowa is listed as a battleground state. But it’s also a swing state. States like Pennsylvania and North Carolina will be contested by both sides, but the competition there will be more about turning out each party’s base and topping those operations with success among the small number of swing voters. Winning in Iowa will be about courting the large number of moderate voters who are up for grabs. There are more registered independents in the state than registered Republicans or Democrats. Ten percent said they were up in the air, according to a recent NBC/Marist poll that had Romney and Obama tied at 44 percent.

At this stage in the campaign, the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids media markets have been some of the most saturated in the nation with political advertisements. The state is so close that both sides even use the same language to talk about it. “It started here and it ends here,” says Sue Dvorsky, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party explaining why Obama will win. In an interview I did this week for CBS’s Face to Face, Republican Gov. Terry Brandstad said, “We’re the state that launched Obama but I think in this election we’re the state that’s going to sink him.”…

The advantage the Democrats have in Iowa is the same one they have in so many other states: their turnout machine. Already Democrats have opened more than 40 offices. Volunteers have been working voters for several years, developing the kinds of personal relationships that Republicans can’t build overnight, even with loads of money. “The physics of the thing is that you can’t make up for time,” says Dvorsky.