David Schaper

The Newt Gingrich campaign bus is rolling again Monday morning, leaving Waterloo, where the candidate spent the night and heading straight east to the small town of Independence. The venue? Heartland Acres Agribition Center, a modest-size exhibition hall for small, regional agribusiness conferences with a lot of interesting old farm implements on display, and a shop with some pretty cool toy tractors.

Another strong turnout this morning for Mitt Romney at a restaurant in Cedar Falls, though the small place wasn't quite as packed as yesterday's breakfast stop in Muscatine. Romney spent a lot of time shaking hands and posing for pictures with customers, supporters and restaurant staff, after he spoke for about 20 minutes. He usually takes a couple of questions from the crowd but did not today, preferring to spend more time than usual glad-handing.

Before the sun was even up here in Iowa this morning, the Mitt Romney campaign bus was rolling on its way to a stop at J's Homestyle Cooking in Cedar Falls.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took a swipe at GOP rival Ron Paul and his isolationist foreign policy positions while campaigning in Iowa Wednesday, but he later told reporters he would support the outspoken Texas congressman if he were the Republican Party nominee for president.

On Wednesday morning, Mitt Romney was getting an early start to campaigning in eastern Iowa, meeting and greeting voters having breakfast or just getting a caffeine boost at Elly's Tea and Coffee in Muscatine.

Campaign buses loaded with Republican presidential hopefuls and their entourages are rolling across Iowa as the candidates hope some face time with GOP voters will help boost their chances in the Jan. 3 caucuses.

The main issue for many Iowa voters is the economy. But there's a sleeper issue emerging: immigration reform.

Iowa's Hispanic population is surging and Republican candidates are struggling with how best to deal with voter concerns.

Thousands of jobs are on the line in a competition between states over the corporate headquarters of Sears. Several states are offering tax incentive packages to try to lure the company away from Illinois, including one bid from Ohio that's worth up to $400 million.

The Sears Holding Corp., parent company to Sears and Kmart, says it is seriously considering the offer after Illinois lawmakers failed this week to approve a package of tax incentives aimed at keeping Sears and another corporate giant from leaving.

Part of a monthlong series

The Great Recession has hit the industrial Midwest especially hard in recent years, from big cities to small factory towns. But now, in at least one small Illinois city, local leaders believe the worst is finally behind them.

Sitting across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, Granite City, Ill., has certainly seen better days. In its downtown, there are more boarded-up and empty storefronts and vacant lots than there are businesses.

Part of a monthlong series

Alice Eastman, a single mother living in Wheaton, Ill., is one of many Americans who, after losing her job, tried to make ends meet on unemployment while she hunted for a job in her field. Then after a long, fruitless search, she took a lower-paying job in retail.

Eastman had a pretty good job making $75,000 a year at the park district in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, heading up its Department of Natural Resources.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The sluggish economy means fewer travelers will be heading home for Thanksgiving this year, although it hasn't brought down prices. And as NPR's David Schaper reports, those who do fly will still find their flights packed.

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