On the eve of a new caucus, when voters will help decide the GOP nominee, Iowa Democrats reconsider their legacy.
ATLANTIC, Iowa -- Terry Mathisen’s face tightened at the name. “Barack Obama,” he said, shaking his head on his way out of a coffee shop in this outpost 80 miles west of Des Moines.
Newt Gingrich’s campaign bus pulled out of town a few minutes earlier and Mathisen, 61, could have easily blended in with the crowd of Republicans that showed up to see the candidate at a Coca-Cola bottling plant.
Mathisen, though, is a Democrat and supported Obama in 2008.
“I just wish I hadn’t of done it,” he lamented Saturday, explaining he thought the president overreached on healthcare and did not bring U.S. troops home soon enough from Iraq. “I’m not impressed with him,” he added, “but I’m not that dissatisfied.”
The conflicted feelings are evident across Iowa, which had a crucial role in putting Obama in the White House with his come-from-behind victory here four years ago.
The importance of this first-in-the-nation nominating contest is often overstated but on that night, in a state that is overwhelmingly white, a record turnout helped propel a black man to the presidency.
“They said this day would never come,” Obama proclaimed in Des Moines.
But on the eve of a new caucus, when voters will help determine the Republican to face Obama, Iowa Democrats are reassessing their legacy. They wonder if Obama was experienced enough and had the tenacity to confront America’s woes, or whether they should have attempted to mint the first female president.