First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama’s campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama’s campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney’s campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I’ve also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.


The first Congressional district race is a rematch between Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley and Republican challenger Ben Lange, who lost narrowly in 2010. Braley has lived in Waterloo (Black Hawk County) for most of his adult life, while Lange is based in Independence (Buchanan County).

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have field offices in Dubuque (Dubuque County) and Cedar Rapids (Linn County). Democratic incumbents are unlikely to have trouble in the Dubuque-area Iowa House and Senate races. In Linn County, Senate district 34 should be an easy hold for Democrat Liz Mathis, and there are several potentially competitive Iowa House races, including House district 66 and House district 68. The district 66 race is a rematch between Republican Renee Schulte and the Democrat she defeated in 2008, Art Staed. In district 68 Republican Nick Wagner faces Daniel Lundby. Two of the new Obama field offices are in the Cedar Rapids area: one on the west side of Cedar Rapids (near House district 66), and one in the suburb of Marion (which is part of House district 68).

For some time, the Obama campaign has had a field office in Waterloo. Several competitive statehouse races are in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area: Senate district 30, where Democratic incumbent Jeff Danielson faces Matt Reisetter, a close ally of Bob Vander Plaats; House district 59, where Democrat Bob Kressig faces James Kenyon; and House district 60, where Republican Walt Rogers faces Bob Greenwood.

A new Obama field office is opening in Grinnell (Poweshiek County). During the last decade, this relatively liberal college town helped elect former Democratic State Representative Eric Palmer and retiring Democratic State Senator Tom Rielly. Now Poweshiek County is part of Iowa Senate district 38, where Republican incumbent Tim Kapucian faces Shelley Parbs, and the open House district 76, where Democrat Rachel Bly faces Republican David Maxwell. Representative Braley grew up in the small town of Brooklyn and may have a strong GOTV push for his Congressional campaign in this county.

A new Obama field office is opening in Independence (Buchanan County), where Republican Congressional challenger Lange lives and practices law. Lange’s campaign is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, however.

A new Obama field office is opening in Cresco (Howard County), in the northeast part of the state. This county is part of Iowa Senate district 26, expected to be one of the marquee statehouse races. The clash of two incumbents features Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm and Republican Merlin “Build My Fence” Bartz.

A new Obama field office is opening in Maquoketa (Jackson County). Former Democratic State Representative Tom Schueller is favored to win his Iowa House seat back from GOP incumbent Brian Moore in House district 58, which includes all of Jackson County.

UPDATE: There is also a Marshall County Democratic Party office in Marshalltown, which is handling GOTV for candidates up and down the ticket. Marshall County is part of Iowa Senate district 36, where Democratic incumbent Steve Sodders faces Jane Jech.


The second Congressional district race pits Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack against Republican John Archer. Loebsack relocated to Iowa City (Johnson County) last year after redistricting put his Linn County home in IA-01. Archer lives in the Quad Cities area (Scott County). Loebsack has not represented that county before.

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have field offices in Iowa City, Davenport (Scott County), and Burlington (Des Moines County). The state House and Senate seats in the Burlington and Iowa City areas should be safe for Democrats, but part of Johnson County is in the open House district 73, where there is no clear favorite between Republican Bobby Kaufmann (son of retiring GOP House Speaker Pro-Tem Jeff Kaufmann) and Democrat Dick Schwab.

Several competitive statehouse races are the Quad Cities area, including Senate district 46, where Republican incumbent Shawn Hamerlinck faces Chris Brase, House district 93, where Democratic incumbent Phyllis Thede faces Mark Nelson, and House district 92, where Republican incumbent Ross Paustian faces former State Senator Frank Wood.

Six of the new Obama field offices opening this weekend are in IA-02, including one in Coralville, a rapidly-growing suburb of Iowa City (Johnson County). Democratic Iowa House incumbent Dave Jacoby is unopposed here.

An Obama field office is opening in Washington (Washington County). There aren’t competitive statehouse races here. Republican Sandy Greiner represents this area in the Iowa Senate but is not up for re-election this year. Republican House incumbent Jarad Klein is unopposed in the new district 78.

An Obama field office is opening in Newton (Jasper County). For the last decade, this county was part of IA-03. The Iowa Senate seat that includes most of Jasper County is not on the ballot in 2012. The Newton area is part of House district 15, where Democratic incumbent Dan Kelley has a rematch against his 2010 opponent Gabe Swersie.

An Obama field office is opening in Fort Madison (Lee County). Senate district 42 is open but should be a Democratic hold for Rich Taylor; this part of the state has a Democratic voter registration advantage and a strong organized labor presence.

An Obama field office is opening in Fairfield (Jefferson County). The Iowa Senate seat that covers this area is not on the ballot in 2012. Fairfield is part of House district 82, where Democratic incumbent Curt Hanson faces James Johnson, who nearly defeated a different Democratic State Representative in 2010.

An Obama field office is opening in Oskaloosa (Mahaska County). Republicans are favored to win the local House and Senate races.

It’s worth nothing that the Obama campaign does not have an office in Ottumwa (Wapello County). For decades, unionized workers and their relatives produced a lot of votes for Iowa Democrats in the Ottumwa area. Democratic turnout was poor here in 2010, which partly explains why State Senator Keith Kreiman lost by a dozen votes in what had been considered a safe seat. Both Fairfield and Oskaloosa are about a 30-minute drive from Ottumwa. UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party’s website lists a coordinated GOTV headquarters in Ottumwa.

There is also a Clinton County Democratic Party office in Clinton, which is running GOTV for candidates up and down the ticket. Clinton county is part of the open Senate district 49, where Republican Andrew Naeve faces Democrat Rita Hart.

The Muscatine County Democratic Party has a similar campaign headquarters open in Muscatine. Part of that county is in Senate district 46 and House district 91, where Republican incumbent Mark Lofgren faces John Dabeet. The rest of the county is in House district 88, where Republican Ways and Means Committee Chair Tom Sands faces Sara Sedlacek.


In the third Congressional district, Representative Leonard Boswell needs strong Democratic turnout, especially in Polk County, to have a chance against Republican incumbent Tom Latham. Boswell moved his official residence to Des Moines a decade ago because of redistricting. Latham moved from Ames in IA-04 to the Polk County suburbs last year because of redistricting.

Obama’s statewide headquarters are on the east side of Des Moines, and four of the 26 new offices opening this weekend are in the Des Moines metro area: in the capital city on Merle Hay Road, in the northern suburb of Ankeny, in the eastern suburb of Altoona, and in the western suburb of Waukee.

The unified Republican victory office is in Urbandale, a suburb of on the west side of Des Moines, and Romney has another office in Waukee.

Polk County doesn’t typically have a lot of competitive statehouse races, but redistricting has created more than usual this year. Altoona is part of the open House district 30, where Democrat Joe Riding faces Republican Jim Carley. Waukee is part of Iowa Senate district 22, where incumbent Republican Pat Ward faces Desmund Adams. The eastern half of Senate district 22 is House district 43, where Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow faces Susan Judkins Josten. Urbandale is part of House district 40, an open-seat race pitting Democrat John Forbes against Republican Mike Brown. Part of Ankeny is in House district 38, where incumbent Republican Kevin Koester faces John Phoenix. Johnston and Grimes are in the open House district 39, featuring two 20-something candidates: Democrat Kelsey Clark and Republican Jake Highfill.

Both Romney and Obama have field offices in Council Bluffs (Pottawattamie County). Although Republicans failed to field a strong challenger against Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a lot of outside money will flow into Senate district 8 because Gronstal has done so much to block the GOP policy agenda. Democrats are looking for a potential pickup in House district 15, where Republican incumbent Mark Brandenburg faces George Yaple. Both the Latham and Boswell campaigns are likely to have a strong GOTV push in Council Bluffs, the largest city in IA-03 outside Polk County.

Four more new Obama field offices are in this Congressional district: Creston (Union County), Perry (Dallas County), Winterset (Madison County), and Indianola (Warren County). Republican statehouse incumbents are favored in most of those areas. There will be a competitive race in the open House district 26 between Democrat Scott Ourth and Republican Steve McCoy. The district covers Indianola and most of Warren County. John Deeth notes that Ourth had a 100 to 1 cash-on-hand advantage according to the latest campaign finance reports. But social conservative activists in Warren County turned out a heck of a lot of votes for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary and delivered victory in the local Iowa House and Senate districts the same year.


The fourth Congressional district spans 39 counties, many of which are new to Republican incumbent Steve King of Kiron (Sac County). Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack grew up in southeast Iowa and lived in the Des Moines area for more than a decade but relocated to Ames (Story County) because of this campaign.

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have field offices in Sioux City (Woodbury County). Two competitive Iowa House races are in this county. House district 13 is a battle of two first-term House incumbents: Democrat Chris Hall and Republican Jeremy Taylor. In the open House district 14, 2010 Democratic candidate David Dawson faces Republican Greg Grupp.

Romney has a field office in Mason City (Cerro Gordo County). I am surprised that the Obama campaign doesn’t have a presence here, but Mason City is not on the list of office openings this weekend. UPDATE: Vilsack’s campaign has staff in Mason City, and the Cerro Gordo Democrats have a coordinated campaign office there.

Romney has a field office in Ames. I don’t know why the site of Iowa State University isn’t on the Obama campaign’s list, because college towns were strong vote-producing areas for the president in 2008. UPDATE: Vilsack’s campaign is headquartered in Ames, and the Story County Democrats office there is running GOTV for all candidates.

Five of the new Obama field offices are in IA-04: Algona (Kossuth County), Spencer (Clay County), Denison (Crawford County), Iowa Falls (Hardin County), and Boone (Boone County). Competitive statehouse races are thin on the ground in IA-04, but House district 47, containing most of Boone County, will be a hard-fought rematch between Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore and the Democrat he beat by a couple dozen votes in 2010, Donovan Olson.

UPDATE: The Webster County Democrats have a field office in Fort Dodge that is running GOTV in the area.

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  • Mark Smth competitive?

    District is close on paper but hard to imagine even the AJ Spiker Iowa GOP prioritizing a Some Dude who was a Libertarian nominee for lt gov. This is mostly an excuse to self promote District Of The Day 3: http://blogs.desmoinesregister…

  • wapello

    also distinguished itself in 2008 w/ greater GOP youth registration or turnout (don’t remember which right now) — the only one of 99. Miller-Meeks may have helped, but that wasn’t the entire story. I did hear a while ago that SE IA was more of a focus this time for OFA due to poor performance in 2008.

    • SE Iowa and beyond ...

      Looked up old file from post-2008 forensics and forgot that I updated it post-2010. I looked at nr of Dem voters in 2008 by county/gender relative to the 2004 election & then the same for 2010 vs 2006.

      Decrease in both M/F Dem turnout for both elections: Wapello, Appanoose, Wayne, Pocahontas.

      The list far longer if you look at decrease in male-only Dem turnout in 2008 relative to 2004: Greene, Warren, Osceola, Ida, Palo Alto, Kossuth, Davis, Jackson, Van Buren, Clarke, Buchanan, Des Moines. All of these counties went on to post net Dem turnout decreases in 2010 (relative to 2006) except Warren — but that’s before adjusting for population change.

      What this means. On Fri I happened to see a USA Today headline in the store: Public sours on both Obama, Romney and both parties. The kernel of discontent was already there in 2008. At this point, white/male/Dem so-called “working-class” decrease in enthusiasm is hardly news although I recall how unpopular it was in 2008 to point to this development.

      For this election, the big problem is in assessing turnout. The “enthusiasm gap” is not limited to white/working-class/male Dems (and women to a lesser degree).

      I see a lot of commentary about Romney making “birther” remarks. That’s not how I interpret his comments — they are far more insidious than that. Romeny isn’t trying to open up a new can of worms about Obama’s place of birth, but he is saying that Obama isn’t mainstream, which is harder to defend against. Romney can produce the Little League notices, etc — all of the mainstream apple pie stuff.

      Obama, OTOH, has one parent who did not embrace American exceptionalism/American dream. Obama’s youth doesn’t have the traditional markers due to living in Indonesia and other biographical details. No Cub Scouts, Little League and so on.

      Conservative ideologue D’Souza has been promoting that Obama is not a “real” American by focusing on Obama Sr’s rejection of the US and certain political stances vs the British. Both Obama & his father are of the right age group when negative attitudes about the British were all the rage in the former colonies, so to this extent, D’Souza’s commentary is at least plausible. However, he continues by attributing Senior’s politics to some sort of unfulfilled mission by the son, which is ridiculous conjecture — but a-ha — this is how the “returning the Winston Churchill bust” becomes a litmus test.

      How does this relate to Iowa in 2012? Naturalization ceremonies have always been an affirmation of certain American values like exceptionalism and mobility. There is a grand bargain — the naturalized citizen or “new American” takes a loyalty oath and in return, becomes a “real,” upstanding American and former ties are moot.

      If you propose that US citizens should be profiled on basis of country of birth and be called upon to “prove” their status in a retroactive process, it is a violation of this bargain between the US and new Americans. You might as well say — not mainstream, not a “real” American, or even worse, this citizenship isn’t worth as much as you thought.

      Some might argue that such a process might reveal a handfull of “illegal” registrants and even a vote cast in error. I would expect w/ Moter Voter that some initially fill out applications but later are aware that they are not eligible to vote. So, like any other faulty app, they are cycled out via inactive status. The system works. And Schultz may find one non-citizen voter who voted in error. However — we have always accepted that this is the price of freedom — tiny imperfections are a consequence of liberty for all.

      A bipartisan effort to round up US citizens to “prove” voting status due to faulty US databases amounts to rubber-stamping these ideas that anyone who isn’t mainstream and Little League is not quite a “real” American. This is the significance of co-signing on to these dragnets, even if politically popular. And it is the Democratic voting base that consists of the less mainstream. Combine this with other structural weaknesses like problems with white working-class voters in your coalition, and turnout issues may lead to death by a thousand cuts.  

  • Coralville Office Open House this Sunday

    The JC Dems send out this announcement a few days ago.

    Coralville office opening celebration

    2781 Oakdale Blvd., Coralville

    Sunday, August 26th at noon

    The office is located in the Grand Rail Development.  The office is the old Capanna’s Coffee Shop.  Going north on 965, turn left at Culver’s.  It will be to your right.