Salena Zito: Hawkeye Democrats disgruntled
GLIDDEN, Iowa — William J. Clinton and three other locals — Tim, Jeff and Jack, who declined to give their last names — sat at the Dairy Mart lunch counter, a Carroll County roadside staple on the Lincoln Highway for more than 60 years.
Besides a name, Clinton said, he shares only one thing with America's 42nd president: “We are both from the South and both Democrats.”
He and his lunch-counter buddies voiced displeasure with America's direction.
“Let me tell you something,” Clinton said. “It takes more than pretty words to run the country. I was fooled once by the president. I am not going to be fooled again.”
One by one, all four said they are Democrats, voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and, in Clinton's words, “cannot wait till election day to vote for Romney.”
“You guys have it all wrong,” said Mike Johnson from behind the counter, where he cooked four pork tenderloin sandwiches. With oil sizzling in a large cast-iron pan, he insisted that “Obama's a nice guy, I'm voting for him again” — to a collective groan from his customers.
Johnson's father built this red-and-white-checked ice cream shack in the 1950s, complete with an incredible innovation for its time — a drive-thru window to entice families using the coast-to-coast highway for great American road trips.
He admitted he has “no solid reason” to support Obama again, adding: “I guess I just don't want him to fail.”
“Fail? Hell, he did that a long time ago,” said Tim, who owns a small business down the road.
Iowa is tight, according to Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor.
“Not leaning, but a complete tossup,” Schmidt said.
In 2008, Iowa put Obama on the political map by kicking off his string of caucus and primary victories. It followed that with an easy Obama win over Republican John McCain in the fall.
Today, Democrats across the state feel the same disillusionment articulated by the lunch-counter quartet.
More than 500 miles of crisscrossing Iowa uncovered scores of Hawkeye Democrats unhappy with the country's direction and the White House under Obama.
Winery owner John Guinan said he “wanted to put a sign outside that said, ‘I can't wait to vote,' but I thought it was a bit over the top.”
Five years ago, Guinan and his wife, Rose, transformed an old Ford assembly plant-turned-auto-dealership into the enchanting Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery, with stone courtyards and a restaurant offering the feel of Tuscany. Guinan said it's “the third largest winery in the state.”
He admitted his passion to vote for Mitt Romney didn't exist until Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate: “Right then and there, he had my vote. Ryan is very bright, very capable, and understands the serious problems facing the finances of our country.”
The small businessman, who employs more than 70 in the town of Carroll, found Obama's “you didn't build that” comment “galling, but not surprising. It is reflective of the concern I had about him on the front end,” referring to the value that Obama puts on government over individuals.
Obama still could win Iowa's five electoral votes by galvanizing young people, aggressively promoting the farm bill now before Congress and playing “Mediscare” with seniors, Iowa State's Schmidt said. “But social issues could mobilize Republicans and pull over enough … independents to give Romney the edge.”
Along the Lincoln Highway between Council Bluffs and Davenport, most cornfields were leveled due to drought-provoked early harvests; marching bands practiced on high school football fields alongside players scrimmaging without pads for the big Friday-night game.
And Mike Johnson gave a big “How ya doing?” to another customer who pulled his pickup truck up to the Dairy Mart's drive-thru window. “You don't want to come in here today, Bill. They're talking politics,” Johnson told the regular.
“Well, as long as no one is voting Obama, I'm fine,” Bill replied.
Johnson sighed deeply, rolled his eyes and reached for a cone to top off with homemade, freshly whipped cherry ice cream.
Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- House resolution urges Wolf to reverse death penalty moratorium
- Sestak kicks off U.S. Senate campaign — with a couple missteps
- Investigation follows Dormont manager’s resignation
- Court rules Steelers must pay Okobi workers comp
- Elizabeth Township, McKeesport impacted by ice jam on Youghiogheny River
- 11 Ligonier Township residents rescued by boat from floodwaters
- PennDOT alerts drivers to numerous road closures due to flooding, debris
- Coal mine blast kills at least 24 in war-torn east Ukraine
- Police: Suspect in 1970 cold case homicide of 17-year-old dies days before charges filed
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Blue Jays’ Martin has ‘nothing but praise’ for former Pirates teammates