Politics Takes Hiatus in Flooded Iowa
By Kari Lydersen
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Official campaigning ground -- or rather squished -- to a halt over the past week in Iowa as the state was inundated.
Democratic presumptive nominee Barack Obama canceled a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids last Wednesday, before the worst of the flooding hit, so as not to divert any state resources from flood relief efforts.
Both political parties have rescheduled their state conventions by two to three weeks.
As President Bush visited flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids and Republican presumptive nominee John McCain toured inundated Columbus Junction about 60 miles south on Thursday, locals said the November election was among the farthest things from their minds.
"People have more important things to worry about, like getting their business and home taken care of," said University of Iowa associate professor of political science Tim Hagle, noting this time of year is normally slow for campaigning in the battleground state anyway.
"We've been really light on campaign things lately with all the state's gone through," said Iowa Democratic Party press secretary Brooke Borkenhagen.
Unlike Hurricane Katrina, where botched recovery efforts were blamed largely on the Republican presidential administration, public opinion of the government's reaction to the Midwestern floods is not likely influence the election one way or another, say local experts.
"I don't think there will be a political fallout," said Republican Party of Iowa executive director Caleb Hunter. "I don't see either party trying to capitalize or punish the opposition as far as the disaster is concerned."
The Iowa state legislature and governor's office are controlled by Democrats, so any dissatisfaction about the government's response would, if anything, likely be directed at both the Republican federal administration and the Democratic state government.
"I haven't seen any complaints where people are angry with the government," said Hagle. "It wasn't poor planning, there wasn't corruption, there weren't a lot of the things you saw going on in New Orleans. But if things happen between now and November, such as difficulty getting the recovery process going, or if there's a road or bridge washed out that's not getting repaired, then you might get some frustrations."
At a Red Cross shelter on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids Thursday, several residents expressed bitterness toward President Bush and the Republican Party as a whole for the response to the floods. One man who declined to give his name cursed Bush and said he was never voting Republican.
Half an hour later, traffic was held up on the road just outside the shelter as Bush's motorcade passed. One young woman got out of her jeep to wave at the president.
Web Politics Editor
June 19, 2008; 7:25 PM ET
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