Can Trump turn Iowa red?

Can Trump turn Iowa red?
Can Trump turn Iowa red?

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    Can Trump turn Iowa red?

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Can Trump turn Iowa red? 02:40

Story highlights

  • Iowa voted for Obama twice
  • Polling has the state at a dead heat

(CNN)Knocking on doors. Pounding the pavement. Volunteers are scrambling for votes across all the states up for grabs, and in Iowa, the urgency is palpable.

The Hawkeye State went for President Barack Obama twice and voted Democratic in the last six out of seven presidential elections. But now, polling has the state at a dead heat, and Republicans are working hard to turn it red for Donald Trump.
    The outcome of those efforts is critical to Trump's path to the presidency, and Republicans admit they can't win the White House without Iowa. Officials on the ground are optimistic.
    "We are ready for change and Mr. Trump brings that change," said Eric Branstad, who is running Trump's Iowa campaign.
    Branstad, the son of Iowa's longtime GOP governor, Terry Branstad, says he sees first hand that Trump is reaching beyond the traditional Iowa GOP base.
    "I have gone to Republican rallies my entire life. I should know everybody when I go in there," Branstad told CNN during an interview at the Iowa headquarters Trump's campaign shares with the Republican National Committee. "We are seeing new voters like we've never seen before."
    This year, Branstad says seeing support for Trump in areas of the state that have gone blue in past presidential cycles.
    "What we're seeing is that Mr. Trump's message in eastern Iowa is resonating," he said. "And you take eastern Iowa and Republican rich western Iowa -- we're going to put those together and we're going to win on November 8."
    Some Iowa voters will have cast their ballots long before Election Day. Early voting has already been underway for over a month in Iowa, which in the past has given Democrats a head start that leads to their victory.
    "I mean literally hundreds of times I've had Republicans tell me, 'No, I want to vote on Election Day.' You know, and for them it's tradition that they've grown up with," said Jeff Kauffman, Iowa's Republican Party chairman.
    This year Iowa GOP officials are trying to bank more early votes to better compete. At a Trump rally in Cedar Rapids last week, volunteers walked around with clip boards giving out information on how to cast early absentee ballots, encouraging Republicans not to wait until Election Day.
    So far Republicans are doing better than they did in 2012, but are still lagging with 33.9% of the early vote compared to 43.2% from Democrats.
    Clinton is working hard to win Iowa in these final days, too. The day of Trump's Cedar Rapids event, Clinton had her own just hours earlier down the road, followed by an evening rally in Des Moines.
    For Democrats, this year the challenge is that Iowa has never been Clinton country. Her stunning loss in the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses was the beginning of the end of that campaign, and her 2016 win against Bernie Sanders was a struggle.
    Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire says she takes solace in the fact that poll numbers earlier this fall showing Trump up in Iowa have tightened to a neck-and-neck race.
    "I was disappointed when we saw that Trump was doing well, but now we're a toss-up state which is what we thought we were before," McGuire told us in an interview at a get out the vote event in Des Moines. She insists Sanders voters, mostly millennials at Iowa's college campuses, are coming home to Clinton, and notes they're doing well with women.
    "It's a great coalition. It's made of really every kind of group," she said.
    Iowa Democrats argue voters are fired up -- especially against Trump.
    "They do not want someone who's not fit to be president. And they're gonna vote for Hillary Clinton," said McGuire.
    Democrats also insist their get-out-the-vote operation is superior, and that will be what pushes Clinton over the finish line in Iowa.
    "It is a toss-up state. And it is gonna come down to that organization, and I think that's what's gonna get us the win," said McGuire.
    Republicans admit their grassroots organization in 2012 in Iowa and other battleground states was lagging, but point to efforts the Republican National Committee made to build new modern technology -- including a phone app for volunteers to record voter contacts -- technology Democrats had been far ahead with in the Obama years.
    Still, Republicans say what will drive their vote more than anything else is enthusiasm and especially opposition to Hillary Clinton. In Iowa, like in many battleground states, the race could come down to the difference between organization -- and enthusiasm.
    "You know, I will give Hillary Clinton one compliment. She has made the environment wonderful for Republicans," said Kauffman, the Iowa GOP chairman.
    And with Iowa squarely in the must-win category for Republicans, the question now is whether their efforts and all that enthusiasm will be enough for Trump to win Iowa's six crucial electoral votes.