According to this report by Jason Hancock at Iowa Independent,
At least 20 employees of the Iowa Democratic Party have been demoted or fired and a coordinated state-wide campaign was essentially disbanded, replaced by a focus on the presidential bid of Sen. Barack Obama.
Details are sketchy, but the changes could have an impact on November’s legislative races, with field staff that was previously working for down-ticket races now being placed on the payroll of Obama’s presidential campaign and working almost entirely on its behalf.
If this story is accurate, it could be very bad news for down-ticket candidates. Obama’s campaign needs only to win the statewide popular vote, and no doubt its field plan will reflect that reality. They have every reason to focus on increasing turnout in Democrat-rich, highly-populated areas.
However, most of those precincts are in the first, second and third Congressional districts, and/or in urban state legislative districts where Democratic incumbents are safe.
I was hoping that the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign would put a special emphasis on getting out the vote in the fourth and fifth Congressional districts, as well as in the battleground districts for the Iowa House and Senate.
Governor Chet Culver recently donated $100,000 from his campaign fund to the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. If I were Culver, I’d want to make sure that turnout efforts focused on building larger Democratic majorities in the state legislature.
Hancock’s article for Iowa Independent notes that
the biggest impact could be on state legislative candidates, who depend on the pooled resources of the coordinated campaign for much of their volunteer coordination and get-out-the-vote programs. Candidates in close races had already paid the initial fee to join the coordinated campaign — up to about $10,000 each — before word leaked out that the Obama campaign would not participate in the joint effort. Money that was paid into the coordinated campaign by candidates will be used to fund the summer canvass and, if financially possible, to extend the canvass through November. Canvassers will focus on down-ticket races. The rest of the Democratic operatives deployed around the state will report directly — and exclusively — to the Obama campaign.
The situation mirrors what happened in Colorado, where the Obama campaign announced last last month it would not be joining the state’s coordinated campaign and instead would operate alongside it. The move drew criticism from some Colorado Democrats who fear the party will end up duplicating efforts and squandering resources.
The difference is that Colorado is likely to be much more closely contested in the presidential race.
Obama is heavily favored to win Iowa’s electoral votes. He has never trailed McCain in a head-to-head poll in Iowa. The Democratic voter registration edge has increased substantially in Iowa during the past year, thanks largely to the caucuses in January. Obama has a strong statewide network of volunteers, while John McCain has never built an organization here and barely campaigned here before the caucuses.
I am concerned that Iowa Democrats will lose some close districts as a result of letting the Obama campaign run the statewide field operation. For the first time in my life, a Democrat is running a strong campaign in my own House district 59. As an environmental activist, I know we can’t make headway on a number of important issues unless we get more good Democrats to the statehouse.
I would like assurances from the Obama campaign that they will dedicate substantial GOTV resources to the key legislative districts, and not only to the areas likely to produce the largest number of presidential votes for Obama.
UPDATE: Open Left user Valatan raised another good point:
if anyone wins in Iowa, they owe their victory to Obama’s machine, not the Iowa Democratic party’s GOTV machine. I wonder if this is quietly happening everywhere, or just in the swing states.
I’ve asked a lot of other state bloggers whether the Obama campaign will coordinate all GOTV in their states. Someone from Missouri wrote back to say that Missouri Democrats would never allow that to happen, because in 2004 the state Democratic Party cooperated with the Kerry campaign, and then the Kerry campaign pulled the plug on all GOTV in Missouri in October.
That makes me even more worried. What if Obama is feeling very confident in Iowa by October, but looks like he may be in trouble in other states? Could his campaign shut down the bulk of his Iowa field operation in order to invest the resources elsewhere?
Whether Obama wins Iowa by 5 percent or 10 percent is of no concern to me, but whether we have 51 or 53 or 55 or 57 Democrats in the Iowa House could make or break a lot of important legislative initiatives in 2009.