Iowa 4th District
Central Iowa is where the Great Plains begins—a land of farm fields marked off by straight roads and punctuated by occasional crossroads towns and grain elevators; the landscape rolls slightly upward to the west, topped by a sky that seems to fill the eyes. Pioneers coming here in the 1840s and 1850s found prairie grass with roots two feet thick, and girded trees with grubbing machines to cut off their roots belowground. Central Iowa has some of the world’s most productive soil, and also some of its most creative agricultural scientists and farmers. A monument to one of them is the 12-foot statue of Norman Borlaug, a scientist who worked on increasing crop yield and ending hunger, in Borlaug’s hometown of Cresco, in Howard County near the Minnesota border. This is long-settled land now, and Iowans’ productivity means that there are fewer people living on farms than there were a century ago. But its towns and small cities remain centers of creativity. One is Ames, in Story County, home of Iowa State University and the host of the Iowa Republican straw poll, which has launched several GOP nomination contests. Ames is part of the growth zone around Des Moines, which is 30 miles to the south. Directly west of the city and its most affluent suburbs is fast-growing Dallas County. To the south is Madison County, famous for the wooden covered bridges that gave their name to a best-selling novel and movie; in 2002, one of the bridges caught fire and burned, so now there are just five left. To the north is Mason City, the boyhood home of The Music Man author Meredith Wilson. In Winnebago County is Winnebago Industries, which manufactures motor homes and recreation vehicles on computer-controlled assembly lines with robotic equipment; the main factory in Forest City employs 3,200, though increased gas prices and the recession have hit hard at sales. The first tractors were manufactured in Charles City, which calls itself “America’s Hometown.”
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District includes all these parts of central and northern Iowa, and covers 28 counties. It does not include Des Moines, but counties around Des Moines cast more than one-third of its votes. Like Iowa, the 4th District is closely divided politically: George W. Bush carried the district 49%-48% in 2000 and 51%-48% in 2004; Barack Obama won it in 2008, 53%-45%.