[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/22/art.elexex.cnn.jpg caption=" The CNN Election Express is heading across the country."] DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - We’re back where it all began. Iowa’s caucuses kicked off the presidential primary season back on January 3. And Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa altered the landscape in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The CNN Election Express spent about a month in Iowa late last year to cover all the campaign action. Now we’re back - and for good reason. If you thought once the caucuses ended, Iowa was out of the political picture: Think again.
Vice President Al Gore won the state by only 4,000 votes in the 2000 presidential election. President Bush carried the state by only 10,000 votes four years ago. This time around, the fight for Iowa’s seven electoral votes should be another close one. The most recent state polls give Obama a slight lead over presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.
Today we’re at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. The annual fair is a must for anyone running for the White House, and it’s also a great place to talk to voters about what’s on their minds.
McCain was here last week, speaking out and talking to voters.
"I've had the great honor as I’'ve been walking around here and meeting people and saying hello to run into our great men and women who have served in our military, and that includes the Iowa guard and reserve,” said McCain.
He never ran an all out campaign to win the Iowa caucuses. Not in 2000, in his first run for the presidency, when he came in fifth in the caucuses. And not this time, when he came in fourth.
“McCain put his money on New Hampshire, which he won both years. The New Hampshire contest includes a lot more Independents - and a lot fewer evangelical voters,” says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, who’s riding the CNN Election Express as we make our way from DC to Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention.
But that was then. This is now. And as Schneider says, “McCain’s not about to write Iowa off the way he did in the caucuses.”