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Iowa Democrats Brave Colder Weather to See the Candidates

With about two months to go before Iowans choose their presidential candidates, Democratic hopefuls are visiting the state often. Voters in the mostly rural, Midwestern state will go to caucuses in early January, becoming the first voters in the nation to choose among more than a half dozen Democrats vying to become the next U.S. president. VOA's Jeff Swicord takes a look at what Iowa Democratic voters say is important this election year.

It takes a hearty soul to get out on a crisp fall morning in Iowa to see a presidential candidate. But Democrats here who want to take back the White House after eight years of Republican rule are doing just that.

On this day, Illinois Senator Barack Obama is in Des Moines. And Democrats, like Sharon Gee, a retired social worker, have come with a long list of issues they want addressed. She says, "There is a number of things, of course. The Iraq war, of course, health care, including children's care. The economy, the budget, lots of things. I am worried about where the money is being spent and all the money that is off budget for the war."

According to recent polls, Barack Obama consistently trails New York Senator Hillary Clinton by several percentage points in Iowa. He brings to voters a message of social justice. He said to one audience, "They are tired of economic policies that seem to widen the divide between rich and not so rich. You have got CEO's that are making more in 10 minutes than ordinary people are making in a year."

Many of the the young, first-time voters in the audience expressed interest in issues like global warming. University student Sujatha Jahagirdar says she liked Barak Obama's proposal to increase government funded student grants."You know there are a set of issues that will have a big impact on the next generation. And so, I think young people are really interested in what the candidates are going to do about those issues."

Later that day at a senior center in East Des Moines, Obama took on social security, an important issue for many older voters. The government-managed retirement fund which, by law, working Americans pay into is expected to run low on funding in the future. President Bush has proposed allowing people to invest some funds privately.

The Illinois Democrat proposes instead to end a social security tax exemption for some earnings of the wealthy. "I did want to say a few words about an issue that is most important in this election. And that is how can we make sure that after a lifetime of hard work, an honest living, folks are rewarded with a secure and dignified retirement," Obama said.

Edith Sharp, a retired teacher, was impressed with what Senator Obama had to say. When asked what is important to you this election? She responded, "Well naturally, I am a senior citizen. And I am for the Social Security, the medical programs -- everything he talked about."

Like their Republican counterparts, on January 3rd, 2008, Iowa Democrats will be the first in the nation to choose from a crowded field of presidential candidates. With less than two months to go, Iowa's mornings are getting colder but the primary races are heating up.