Barack Obama speaks after winning the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, 2008. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
Democrats, too, will be caucusing in Iowa next Tuesday night. But for Team Obama, the meetings of party activists are all about November.
As the GOP sorts through its choices in the Republican caucuses, President Obama will be directly engaging with Iowa Democrats in an attempt to rally his base in a state that also serves as a key general election battleground.
Turnout for the Democratic caucuses is expected to be far lower than the nearly 240,000 who turned out in 2008, when Iowa Democrats handed Obama a surprise victory that set him on the path to the White House.
Still, the Obama campaign is keen to see a sizable showing, and hopes the opportunity to hear from the president is enough of a draw.
A message on the state Democratic Party website says the party "must be able to show that we're committed to President Obama's reelection," and that having "strong, well-run Democratic caucuses will show the nation that we're ready for what's ahead."
"We are taking the long view of this," Obama campaign spokesman Ben Finkenbinder said. "Our organization is focused on winning in November."
Obama will address those who attend Democratic caucuses through streaming video software Adobe Connect, which will allow supporters to address questions to the commander in chief. It's a new tool the campaign has added to its arsenal for the 2012 campaign as it seeks to build on the innovations used in the 2008 effort.
The campaign has also been hard at work with more traditional voter engagement. It has eight offices open in the state -- more than most of the Republicans. Volunteers have made 350,000 calls to supporters in Iowa, and held 4,000 one-on-one conversations.
"The 3rd is a great organizing opportunity for us," Finkenbinder said. "This is the next step in building our organization."
Politico reported Wednesday that Obama campaign officials hope Democratic turnout next week will beat the turnout for Republicans in 2004 when George W. Bush was seeking reelection.
Then, rather than showcase the president, Bush's campaign had a team of surrogates deployed at caucus locations throughout the state. But one day after the caucuses, which were won by Democrat John Kerry, Bush delivered his election year State of the Union address.
A week later as the focus shifts to New Hampshire, the Obama campaign will make a similar effort there. The campaign announced Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will stream in to address supporters gathered at house parties throughout the state on the night of the nation's first primary.
The Obama campaign has three offices currently open in New Hampshire, with plans to open four more by primary day.
Both the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic parties, in cooperation with the Democratic National Committee, also plan to hold events in each state where surrogates will respond to Republican attacks on the president's record.
Mobilizing Democratic supporters in both states is critical given that Republicans have been camped out there for months hammering him. A new NBC/Marist poll put Obama's job approval rating in Iowa at just 43%.