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Comparing voter registration numbers and election results by county

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:48:29 AM CST

The latest voter registration numbers in all 99 Iowa counties are out, and I wanted to do one final update on the registration totals in each county, grouped by Congressional district. Statewide, Republicans had led Democrats in voter registrations since April, but that lead was almost gone by the beginning of November. Late GOTV and election-day registrants helped put Democrats a little ahead again. As of December 3, Iowa had 640,776 active registered Democrats, 636,315 Republicans, and 722,348 no-party voters.

In the tables below, I also added vote totals for President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and the major-party Congressional candidates in each county, to show which candidates outpolled or underperformed their party's presidential nominee. I'm not convinced that Christie Vilsack could have beaten Tom Latham in IA-03, but Leonard Boswell finished noticeably behind the president in this district, especially in Polk County.  

desmoinesdem :: Comparing voter registration numbers and election results by county
Voter registration numbers and election results by county come from the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

Active voter registration numbers as of December 2012


Democrat Bruce Braley lagged a little behind President Obama in fifteen counties but exceeded Obama's vote total in five counties: Black Hawk (where he has lived and worked for decades), Dubuque, Iowa, Jackson, and Poweshiek (where he grew up). Republican Ben Lange outperformed Mitt Romney in only two counties: Buchanan (where he lives and works) and Winneshiek.

County Democrats Republicans no-party voters votes for Obama votes for Romney votes for Braley votes for Lange
Black Hawk29,50320,89231,87939,80626,21940,74924,078


Democrat Dave Loebsack lagged a little behind President Obama in sixteen counties but exceeded Obama's vote total in eight counties that he has represented for the past six years: Appanoose, Cedar, Davis, Lee, Monroe, Van Buren, Washington, and Wayne. Republican John Archer received more votes than Mitt Romney in only two counties, both new to Loebsack's district: Scott (where Archer lives and works) and Clinton.

County Democrats Republicans no-party voters votes for Obama votes for Romney votes for Loebsack votes for Archer
Des Moines11,9026,2598,72011,8888,13611,5717,905
Van Buren1,0952,2071,6801,4022,0641,5471,864


Democrat Leonard Boswell finished well behind Obama in all sixteen counties, most disastrously in Polk, which the president carried by more than 32,000 votes. Polk was the sole county Boswell carried, and he only won it by about 4,000 votes. Every county in IA-03 delivered more votes to Republican Tom Latham than to Romney.

County Democrats Republicans no-party voters votes for Obama votes for Romney votes for Boswell votes for Latham


Democrat Christie Vilsack only carried seven of the 39 counties in this district, but she came close to matching Obama's vote totals in 27 counties and outpolled the president in twelve counties: Butler, Cerro Gordo, Emmet, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Kossuth, Pocahontas, Shelby, Sioux, and Winnebago. King lagged a bit behind Romney in 28 counties but exceeded the GOP nominee's vote totals in nine counties: Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford, Ida, Monona, Osceola, Plymouth, Sac, and Woodbury.

County Democrats Republicans no-party voters votes for Obama votes for Romney votes for Vilsack votes for King
Buena Vista2,9803,9854,7663,7004,5543,5704,533
Cerro Gordo9,9298,18712,95113,31610,12813,8559,154
Palo Alto2,4611,6352,2802,1392,6602,1152,561

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I'm convinced (0.00 / 0)
Boswell's selfish stubbornness,d refusal to go when the time was right, and perennial under-performance cost us a winnable seat, probably for the decade. And I'm just as happy; his Blue Dog self-label damaged the Democratic brand across the state. Good riddance; it's just too bad he was replaced by Latham rather than by a progressive Dem who was actually from Des Moines.

And in pre-buttal to the inevitable Loebsack bashing: the Vilsacks registered in Polk County in January 2007 when Tom's term ended.

numbers not there for Vilsack (4.00 / 1)
Latham carried IA-03 by more than 30,000 votes. She would have done better than Boswell in Polk County for sure, but Latham could have won even while giving up another 25K votes in Polk. That assumes Vilsack would have matched Boswell's totals in the rural counties, which I doubt she would have. He represented a bunch of those counties in the 1980s and 1990s.

Vilsack's whole campaign boiled down to this: I'm a problem solver who will work across party lines. The other guy is a mean-spirited jackass who pushes his right-wing ideology instead of representing his district.

Latham is not nearly as off-putting to moderates as King is. He may vote just like King, but he doesn't mouth off on tv. He brings money back to his district thanks to his seat on Approps. Not an easy incumbent for any Democrat to run against.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
regarding Loebsack (0.00 / 0)
I don't understand why you object to Boswell's Blue Dog behavior but give Loebsack a pass for voting like a Blue Dog again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

Like it or not (I don't like it), a Blue Dog is what Leonard Boswell is. Do you think Loebsack really believes in deregulating the coal industry and extending Bush-era Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions? How about expanding offshore oil drilling and passing a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget? These bills may be DOA in a Democratic-controlled Senate, but what ever happened to voting your values? Loebsack represents a more Democratic district than Boswell ever has. On some of the votes I just linked, Loebsack was the only member of the House Progressive Caucus to vote with the Blue Dogs.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
Branding (0.00 / 0)
Loebsack is a progressive who sometimes errs on the side of timidity. Boswell self-identified throughout his career as a "Blue Dog Conservative Democrat." The Blue Dogs damaged our party's brand nationally; glad they're near extinction.

not buying it (0.00 / 0)
I'm looking at all the House Democrats on the Progressive Punch database. If you sort by overall lifetime progressive score (and they look at every vote, not just final votes on bills), Loebsack ranks 104th out of 193 House Democrats.

If you sort by overall progressive score during 2011 and 2012 only, Loebsack ranks 160th out of 193.

If you look at the smaller set of "crucial" House votes (defined here), Loebsack's lifetime progressive ranking is 151st out of 193. Looking at his "crucial" House votes in 2011 and 2012 only, he ranks 159th out of 193.

That's not a progressive who is sometimes timid. That is a guy who had a close shave in 2010 and has since drifted very close to a Blue Dog in a D+4 district.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
Thoughts (0.00 / 0)
Loebsack moved to the center and I thank him for it.  He came to realize that he didn't just represent the most "progressive" parts of Johnson County.

Christie Vilsack seemed unwilling to answer basic questions such as how long should unemployment benefits be extended? Even if you are not sure or  don't want to aggravate your donors at least say some number, she just ran a typical campaign instead of giving straight answers.  

There's no way she would have defeated Latham.  I think she could and should run for something else in the future, but her policy people or whomever did not do a good job prepping her.

I'm not convinced that Jim Leach was ever truly to the left of Leonard Boswell once you factor in all votes, rhetorically yes, but I don't think Progressive Punch is a great measuring stick either. Of  course I like having Dems in districts that may lean R and I don't think the Blue Dogs hurt our brand, but most people who care about the topic disagree.  

[ Parent ]
the Blue Dogs are almost all gone anyway (4.00 / 1)
thanks to Republican gerrymandering.

I agree with you that factoring in all the issues, Leach was not to the left of Boswell. Leach was a master at playing both sides--pro-choice but voting against funding, pro-environment but voting against funding.

Also agree that dancing around the issues was a terrible strategy for Vilsack. Played right into Steve King's hands.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
Boswell below that (0.00 / 0)
and just a couple notches ahead of the top Republican. Indeed, in 01-02 Jim Leach ahd a more progressive record than Boswell.

And that's really the origin of my Boz beef: the 01-02 era. He was the only Dem in our House delegation at the time and his record made it really hard for those of us trying to take back that iteration of the 2nd CD. His vote for the Iraq War and Harkin's, probably cost Julie Thomas that race. People were too scared of Ganske to punish Harkin, but wanted to reward Leach's anti-war vote, and "the Dems voted for the war" gave them the excuse.

do you really think (4.00 / 1)
Loebsack would have courageously voted against the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq? That goes against everything we've seen from him in the last year.

Boswell is an old-fashioned rural Democrat--better than some, because he's pro-choice. Not my favorite kind of Democrat, but he never pretended to be a progressive. I think it's a stretch to blame him for Julie Thomas losing. Lots of people had a long history of crossing lines to support Leach.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
an old-fashioned rural Democrat (0.00 / 0)
would have had a change to hold old IA05 in 2002, and that's where Leonard lived at the time... and apparantly, still lived at the time of the home invasion in 2011. Boswellcould have, maybe, spared us Steve King... but instead he took the easy move (and stepped on Matt McCoy who was already up and running in IA03 in 2001)

We'll never convince each other. I don't like Boz, you don't like Loebsack. At least my guy won.

[ Parent ]
not a chance (0.00 / 0)
Boswell could have beaten King in IA-05 in 2002.

I voted against Boswell in the primary when I had a chance. I have been criticizing his Blue Dog votes at this blog for more than five years. In his defense, I will say that he is probably voting for stuff he believes in most of the time he votes for bills I hate.

I have nothing personal against Loebsack. He seems like a nice guy, and I'm sure he means well. I don't think he believes in this Blue Dog stuff, and I would like him to vote his principles more often. I think his liberal fans should acknowledge the many compromises he makes and not portray him as some kind of progressive hero, voting to extend all the Bush tax cuts in order to "fight for the middle class". You can tell Loebsack isn't proud of these Blue Dog votes. His office doesn't send out press releases bragging about them.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
vilsack versus boswell (0.00 / 0)
The tables don't show the third parties votes, but Boswell lost more votes to third party candidates than anyone else.  If Vilsack had run in district 3, she probably picks up 10,000 votes from 3rd party candidates, and probably could have won the district with a margin Polk of 20,000 (some flips, some 3rd party).  

Vilsack ran almost as well as Obama in most counties (better in a few) in district 4. Boswell ran behind Obama in every county in his district, lost huge numbers of votes to 3rd parties in Polk and Pottawattamie, and lost a huge number of suburban voters in Dallas County.  Had Leonard stepped down, and let Christie run in this district, I think she would have won by 10,000 to 15,000 votes.  

Politics is an odd thing though.  We might not be having this conversation if Tom Vilsack ran for Congress in 1996.  Boswell stepped in after Tom stepped out.

I take that point (0.00 / 0)
but Vilsack was running against King, not Latham. I wouldn't assume any Rs or conservative-leaning independents would have voted for her against Latham. The suburban voters in Dallas County would have been for Latham in any case.

I wasn't living here in 1996 and did not know that Vilsack considered running in the old, old IA-03. Interesting.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
vilsack v latham (0.00 / 0)

But a lot of those conservative R/Is voted for Obama and not for Leonard; Christie ran almost as well as Obama in rural counties in district 4 and I think she would have done the same in 3.  As for Polk County, Leonard lost a lot of votes due to his stupid feud with Ed Fallon.  It just seems to me that Vilsack could have won 7,500+ votes from 3rd party voters who didn't want to vote for Latham or Boswell.  The 3rd had 10,000 more voters who voted for 3rd parties than in other districts.  As for Dallas County, more of those suburban voters voted for Obama than Romney. Obama lost Dallas in 2008.  I think Leonard's poor showing in Dallas and Warren was due to Leonard and not the strength of Latham.  It's hard to imagine a lot of Obama/King voters, but there must have been about 18,000 Obama/Latham voters.  Christie won about 97% of the vote that Obama won; Leonard won about 83% of the vote that Obama won, despite having 28,000 more Democrats in his district.  In terms of outperforming the registration numbers, Vilsack did as well Loebsack (I realize not every registered voter actually votes.  This is just a rough measure).  When I look at the numbers, I see a real lost opportunity for the Democrats.

[ Parent ]
late to reply (0.00 / 0)
Meant to respond to this comment earlier. I agree that Vilsack would have lost fewer votes to third-party candidates in IA-03, but I don't think she would have had as many votes from independents or Rs against Latham. It's hard to imagine how her campaign against Latham might have played out, because her whole message from beginning to end was about being different from King in temperament and being more focused on local issues than waging ideological warfare.

Historically, Latham has done well with no-party voters, regardless of his Democratic opponent.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]

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