GOP hopefuls court both sides of Iowa
By Patty Davis/CNN
August 13, 1999
Web posted at: 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT)
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa straw poll started out as a fund-raiser for Iowa's Republican Party, but the contest has taken on national significance. Presidential hopefuls are in Iowa courting the state's farm vote while also reaching out to white-collar voters.
Iowa hog farmer Doyce Blomquist has seen better days. "We've had about 19 months of poor prices, losing prices," Blomquist said.
With prices so low, Blomquist is hardly breaking even: "You're basically working for nothing, without a wage. I guess that's pretty plain and simple."
Republican presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa for the straw poll are making the farm crisis an issue.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush said, "I believe the future of agriculture really depends upon our capacity to sell product overseas."
Farmers are going out of business at a rate of 1,000 every year in Iowa.
While low prices for corn, soybeans, and livestock are making it tough for farmers to survive, there's another face of Iowa that is growing and thriving.
It can be seen in downtown Des Moines, where 70 insurance companies now have their headquarters.
"It's the second largest insurance community...in the United States, second to Hartford (Connecticut)," said Jim Zahnd of the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.
The insurance industry has generated more than 6,000 new jobs over the past three years in Iowa. The unemployment rate now 2.6 percent, well below the national average. There's even a labor shortage.
Drake University Professor Hugh Winebrenner says: "There are many skilled, technical jobs that are unfilled. Some businesses have not been able to expand because of the shortages of labor. So there are real opportunities in this second face of Iowa."
Opportunities that are drawing businesses and highly paid executives to the state. Big salaries are allowing workers to build big homes. But, in rural Iowa, it's a far different story.
Blomquist works a second job as a barber to make ends meet. "You definitely would have to or you wouldn't survive, if you want to eat," he said.