A crowd of several hundred gathered early in the morning at Jethro’s Barbecue in Waukee last Wednesday, waiting to send off Gov. Kim Reynolds' "Keep Iowa Moving" bus tour.
To a chant of "Kim, Kim, Kim," Reynolds waved and smiled and hugged those nearby, then hopped on a chair for the first delivery of a speech that would be repeated at dozens of rallies around the state.
She says wages are going up, taxes are going down, and her Democratic opponent, Fred Hubbell, is not the answer.
"Fred wants to go backwards," Reynolds said. "In the debate, when he answered a question, his answer to everything was more money and big government and I don’t believe that.
"I want this businessman to know that his CEO has balanced the budget," Reynolds added, her voice rising.
"They told me not to scream," she added to cheers and laughter from the crowd. "That’s part of who I am."
One supporter came with an encouraging anecdote for the governor.
"After her debate the other night with Hubbell, I had telephone calls and texts from five of the most staunch Democrats on the southside you could possibly ever get," said Tom Pontow of Des Moines. "They told me she absolutely killed it."
In the final days before the election, Reynolds and Hubbell are making last-minute appeals to voters as they tour the state on their campaign buses.
Later Wednesday morning, the tour pulled up outside Nelson Electric on the east side of Ames, a fourth generation family-owned business. Jerry Nelson said he's glad to loan his warehouse for the governor's rally.
“We’re supporting the Republican party mainly for small business and what they’re doing for taxes for small business," Nelson said. He added it "remains to be seen" how the tax cut bill Reynolds signed this year will benefit him.
"We’re hopeful it will turn up on our bottom line," Nelson said.
Gary Seite of Story City came to complain about his Republican congressman, Steve King.
"I just talked to Kim Reynolds about Steve King and his racist statements recently," Seite said. "The Weekly Standard called him the most deplorable congressman."
Seite objects to Reynolds retaining King as one of the co-chairs of the campaign.
"I told her to fire him," Seite said. "She won't."
Gov. Reynolds was launched into state electoral politics by her mentor Terry Branstad. But it appears that it’s Reynolds and not Branstad on voters' minds.
Retired teacher Mary Ellen Silver turned out for a rally at the Saints Avenue Café in Boone. She voted for Terry Branstad "whenever he was on the ballot," but won't necessarily expect the same from Reynolds.
"I don't know because the needs of our culture are different," Silver said. "They keep moving forward but I think she would be on top of that."
Silver concurred that it is meaningful that Reynolds is the first female governor.
"It is, but women or men I'm for the person with the integrity to be honest and I think she is."
By early afternoon, the tour lands in a town with other things on its mind besides the election. On Main Street in Marshalltown, repairs are underway from last summer’s tornado. A construction crane blocks access to the bus, so a crowd waits for the governor to walk up the street.
"It looks bad in Marshalltown but it looks a lot better than it did in July," said former Marshall County Treasurer Dean Adams, one of many county officers who know Reynolds from her county treasurer days.
"I know her quite well and support her 110 percent," Adams said. "She’s a class act."
The crowd greets Reynolds warmly as she approaches, calling her Kim and "Kimmer."
"That's my county treasurer name," Reynolds said, laughing.
Back in Waukee, Iowa’s senior Republican U.S. Senator Charles Grassley says Reynolds has the right strategy for the final days.
"I think touring the state, reminding people what she knows all about Iowa, working in a small town, for county government, with the grandchildren she has, that she cares about Iowa," Grassley said.
Earlier in the day, Grassley gave Republican voters another reason to vote for Reynolds. He noted he will be in his late 80’s as his six-year term progesses and he acknowledged his health could fail. He warned against having a Gov. Fred Hubbell to appoint a Democrat to succeed him.