An Iowa county turns from Carter
Palo Alto County, Iowa
It was a family of Carters who first settled in the gently rolling countryside of this northwest Iowa county only 125 years ago. Yet in the spring of 1980, as a presidential election approaches and the Carter in the White House looks here as elsewhere for support, Palo Alto voters clearly are feeling no special loyalty to the Carter name.Skip to next paragraph
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Though James Earl Carter won the support of a majority of voters here in the last presidential election, there are strong indications already that he may not be able to do so again in November.
"I think a lot of Democrats are going to be switching sides in this election -- Reagan's looking pretty good to me," one farmer says.
At the moment it is hard to find a farmer anywhere in Palo Alto County who says he will vote for Jimmy Carter. The incumbent President still draws plaudits as a "good" and "decent" man. But as chief executive he stands guilty of a string of broken promises in the eyes of many farmers here who supported him in 1976.
As they see it, it was bad enough for the President to impose a grain embargo last January after publicly dismissing it as an option only months before. Farmers say they suspected from the start that they might be more hurt than the Russians by the move but relied on the President's next promise to cushion the blow by buying up much of the embargoed grain and taking other protective economic steps. They say there has been little or no follow-through.
"Carter said farmers wouldn't have to bear the brunt of the embargo, but they are," grain farmer Bob Eckert says. "You can't believe what he tells you, and that's enough reason not to vote him."
"As a man Carter can't be beat, but he made a lot of promises he should never have made," declares A. W. Schuller, a farmer and former major of the town of Mallard. He suppoorted Mr. Carter in the last election but says, "Reagan is the only way I could go now."
"I supported Carter in the last election, but I wouldn't give you a penny for him again," says a farmer from Ayershir. He says that he and his wife are both registered Democrats and will soon march to the county auditor's office to change their party registration cards.
The reason political analysts listen particularly carefully when Palo Alto residents speak and vote is that the county as a whole happens to have voted for the winning candidate in every presidential election since 1896.
So far in this election year, the only official indicators of where county voters stand were the January caucuses of both major parties. Jimmy Carter won in the Democratic caucusing here, and George Bush won on the Republican side.
Since then there have been no polls -- unless you count a highly informal poll of fourth graders in Emmetsburg's West Elementary School, conducted a few days ago by 10-year-old Jeremy Whitmore, son of the editor of the county's chief newspaper. The survey was prompted by a classmate's comment that "Carter will never make it." The results, presumably a mysterious mix of television, parental , and classmate influence, came up 17 for "kennedy," 3 for "Ragon," and 2 each for Carter and Anderson. Jeremy explained to his mother, Jane Whitmore, who edits Emmetsburg's "The Democrat," that he had spelled out the names as they sounded and that he himself had voted for Senator Kennedy in the end "because he was winning."
So far, most of the county's Bush supporters appear to be holding firm with their choice.