Obama pushes early voting, but only for himself

Getting out the vote early was a major theme of President Barack Obama’s campaign rallies in Urbandale and Sioux City yesterday. Democratic candidates for other offices need a strong early vote as well, but there’s no sign the president is concerned about electing Democrats up and down the ticket.

Obama’s campaign did a lot of crowd-building before the concert and rally at Living History Farms yesterday. Like many other Des Moines area Democratic households, I received multiple e-mail blasts publicizing the event, plus two robocalls and two calls from campaign volunteers offering me tickets. Officials estimated the crowd at around 10,000 people.

I didn’t attend the rally, but I listened to the president’s speech at the Radio Iowa site. I have to hand it to the Obama campaign schedulers: the president joked early in his speech that he would get supporters home in time to watch college football, and sure enough, he wrapped up about a half-hour before kickoff time for the Iowa State and University of Iowa games. Obama’s Sioux City rally at Morningside College took place yesterday evening, after the football games ended. But the president made an unscheduled stop in a Sioux City sports bar during the afternoon.

Many stump speeches go on too long, but Obama kept it short as he joked about the Republican National Convention.

“What they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century,” Obama said. “It was a rerun. We’d seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.”

Obama suggested little substance had been revealed at the GOP affair.

“There was a lot of talk about ‘hard truths’ and ‘bold choices’ but nobody ever actually bothered to tell you what they were,” Obama said, laughing along with the crowd. “And when Governor Romney had a chance to let you in on his secret, he did not offer a single new idea, just retreads of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years.”

In Urbandale and in front of roughly 2,800 supporters in Sioux City, some people in the crowd booed as the president talked about the Republican policy agenda. Obama responded with a pretty good slogan: “Don’t boo, vote!” He then framed the election as a choice between two paths going forward.

Obama reminded supporters that Iowans can start voting on September 27 and urged people to visit campaign websites designed to help people get registered and obtain an early ballot. Campaign staff were “roaming around with clipboards” at Living History Farms yesterday in an effort to sign up early voters.

However, the president said nothing during his speeches to encourage people to vote for Democrats all up and down the ballot.

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler wrote recently about how the president rarely campaigns for Democratic Congressional candidates or invites them on stage with him at his events. Near the beginning of his speech in Urbandale, Obama acknowledged three Democrats in the audience: Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Leonard Boswell, and Attorney General Tom Miller. Harkin and Miller are not up for re-election this year. Although most of the people in the crowd probably live in the third Congressional district, I didn’t hear a word from Obama encouraging supporters to help Boswell in his tough race against Republican incumbent Tom Latham.

Several competitive Iowa House and Senate races are close to Living History Farms, but the president didn’t put a word in for Democrats in any of the nearby suburban districts, like John Forbes in House district 40, Kelsey Clark in House district 39, Susan Judkins Josten in House district 43, or Desmund Adams in Senate district 22. While I haven’t listened to his Sioux City remarks, I think it’s safe to assume he didn’t make a push for Congressional candidate Christie Vilsack or for Democratic candidates Chris Hall and David Dawson in Iowa House districts 13 and 14.

After the 2008 election, many Iowa Democrats grumbled privately and at least one complained publicly about the lack of GOTV help from the Obama campaign. Democrats picked up a few state House and Senate seats but left several close races on the table. Even the president’s general election campaign manager in Iowa, Jackie Norris, later admitted that more should have been done in 2008 to educate new voters on the need to vote the whole ballot.

Speaking to Democrats around the state this summer, I get the impression that for the most part, Obama organizers are not doing much to help down-ticket candidates. That’s too bad, because the Obama campaign has an extensive network of field offices up and running, and the Iowa Democratic Party is making early GOTV a priority.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Wow, the Obama campaign is really pushing hard in Iowa. On September 7, the day after the Democratic National Convention ends, Barack and Michelle Obama are doing an event in Iowa City with Joe and Jill Biden. The four will visit New Hampshire for a campaign rally earlier that day.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan will headline a rally in Cedar Rapids on September 4.

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  • not really new news

    as pointed out w/r/t 2008.

    Obama likes to keep his hands clean. He doesn’t really have a history of campaigning as a Democrat, so no surprises here.

    CASA (a Latino group) and Equality MD have joined forces for the ballot issues in MD. More of this, please. I have long thought that issue groups have been neutered in their roles as foot soldiers for their respective parties. It will be interesting to see how hard WI Dems/allies work to GOTV all things considered.

    2008 Obama was coasting to a win in IA. This time, a much tougher fight, so in some sense, his team has more of an excuse for focusing on their candidate as a priority. The down-ticket races do benefit from straight-party voting as well.

  • Obama

    Obama should do more to help Leonard, but I will admit that I have never voted for all Democrats and don’t see a situation in the near future where I would.  

    • if he is so proud of Obamacare

      He should be supporting the Iowa House and Senate Democratic candidates, because without them the Medicaid expansion won’t happen.

      • True

        You’re absolutely right, but I doubt Obama has really taken the time to study the legislation.  He’s a brilliant guy, but one of my many frustrations with him is that he tries to paint this as a simple matter.  He doesn’t need to study the legislation if all he does is demonize the opposition to Obamacare.  

    • IIRC, Boz outperformed

      Dems in old IA-03. Certainly did in 2010. It’s a coin toss whether BO can “help” him in any substantive way unless you think Obama will win new IA-03. Current polling indicates otherwise.

      There’s the voters that vote top-of-the-ticket only, but it’s doubtful that they pay any extra attention to a coordinated campaign door hanger w/ all the Dem candidates. The heart of the matter is that Obama has always tried to appeal to independents and even Republicans by not strongly identifying w/ the Dem ticket, so no surprises.

      • Donors

        Obama can’t help with votes, but his people can probably open revenue streams for Boswell.  Leonard always needs cash.  It’s the only reason why celeb endorsements and endorsements from other politicians matter, you open the door to new donors.  I wouldn’t think that Anna Wintour’s endorsement of Obama will directly help change anyone’s vote to the Obama column, but the $$$ she rakes in can help.  

  • We Eat Our Young

    One of the lousy things about being a Democrat is we get to witness the “eating of our young”.  President Obama leads the ticket and those of us who work for candidates down the line know that grumbling about not being mentioned during a campaign trip isn’t good for any of us.  Our candidate Desmund Adams in SD22 shares an office with OFA and we mingle staff and services.  Nobody has to try to figure out where we come down during this election.  Glad this was posted during a slow news day.  Come on people…go out and…work.

    Michael P. Libbie (no hiding here kids!)


    • well, obviously

      the candidates aren’t going to complain about not being mentioned. I don’t think it’s too much to ask the president to call on his supporters to elect other people who will support his agenda. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for OFA staff to remind early voters to vote the whole ballot and not just for Obama.