Nightly News   |  January 03, 2012

Main Street, USA: What matters to Iowa voters

In the first of a series of reports called “Main Street, USA,” NBC’s Tom Brokaw has been talking to people across the country about what will drive them to the polls starting Tuesday in Iowa.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we want to bring you the first in a series of reports we're calling MAIN STREET USA . Tom Brokaw 's been talking to folks across this country about the issues, what will drive people to the polls starting tonight in places like Iowa . Tonight Tom's with us from Des Moines . Hey, Tom , good evening. How's it look this year?

TOM BROKAW reporting: Good evening. Well, Brian , it's worth remembering that four years ago, President Barack Obama carried the state easily, but this fall Iowa is expected to be a major battleground state . And on Main Street here, we're already hearing the concerns of that fall campaign. Why is that? Iowa is doing much better than most states, unemployment is under 6 percent. Corn and cattle prices are paying handsome returns. Iowa farmland is going for record amounts. So why are Iowans upset?

Mr. TONY SWEET (Perry, Iowa Resident): They lost trust in a lot of the government, particularly in Congress and our current president.

BROKAW: Main Street in the heartland of America . This is Perry , Iowa . Seventy-seven hundred people live in this historic railroad town northwest of Des Moines , and this elegantly restored hotel is a popular stopping place for the Republican candidates, all promising they can do better. In the same hotel, I met four Perry Republicans who had many shared feelings about foreign policy, faith and the future. In the last week, national security has emerged as a more important issue; that could continue into the fall. Retired teacher Phil Stone on the president.

Mr. PHIL STONE: I think he's had opportunities to stand up for America and has passed on those occasions.

Ms. LIN JACOBSON (Perry, Iowa Resident): We want somebody that we feel confident has a direction, a moral direction as well as a military direction.

BROKAW: Morality and faith are major considerations for these conservative Christians . They have issues with the president and also Mitt Romney . You think that President Obama 's a man of faith?

Mr. SWEET: No.

BROKAW: Why not?

Mr. SWEET: I cannot imagine a man sitting in Jeremiah Wright 's church being a man of true faith , being a true Christian.

Ms. JUDY GARDINER: We have unique traits, preferences, gifts and quirks.

BROKAW: Judy Gardiner is a leader in the local Baptist church and Mitt Romney 's faith is a big issue. Are you comfortable with Mormonism ?

Ms. GARDINER: No, I'm not.

BROKAW: Does that keep you from moving toward Mitt Romney ?

Ms. GARDINER: Yes, it does.

BROKAW: Were you accepted right away by the community? Those are not the only voices in Perry . Eddie Diaz is a Perry high school teacher, part of a growing Hispanic population attracted by jobs at the local Tyson plant. His family came here from California in '95. Eddie served as a Marine sergeant in the Iraq war before returning to Perry .

Mr. EDDIE DIAZ: Why would you choose to punish these kids?

BROKAW: Recently he challenged Michele Bachmann for her hard line on immigration. Explaining...

Mr. DIAZ: Because every election cycle the immigration's used as a punching bag, and it's just so easy to demonize people.

BROKAW: Eddie could go elsewhere but he likes Perry , which he says is more moderate politically and culturally than the candidates realize. Mayor Jay Pattee , a Democrat and lifelong resident, agrees. He thinks once the candidates leave Iowa life will go on.

Mayor Jay PATTEE: I was at a meeting last night where there were two people. The wife was Democrat and the husband was Republican. They're both active in their parties and I think they've been married for 25 years and look forward to many more years of the same.

BROKAW: And, Brian , late today the city council in Perry had to have a difficult meeting about coming budget problems. The mayor said they were Democrats and Republicans alike, they were going to come to an agreement. When I asked if President Obama was getting any credit in town he laughed and said, well, a point of civic pride now is a new community college built with local funds but mostly with stimulus money from the federal government and from President Obama . This is just the beginning of a very long