Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Saving the electoral college will not keep Iowa relevant

Both Governor Chet Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro have now come out against a bill that would award Iowa’s electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Their opposition in effect kills any chance of the bill advancing. Although it has been voted out of committee in the Iowa Senate, it may never come to a floor vote there or a committee vote in the Iowa House.

I don’t know what so many people have against one person, one vote for president, just like we have for every other elected office. I also take issue with this part of Culver’s statement:

As the last three elections have shown, Iowa is now a battleground state, and, as such, the issues of Iowans are heard by the candidates of both parties. If we require our electoral college votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state and the opportunity to ensure that the ideas that are important on Iowa’s Main Streets remain important on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the governor wants to buy into Republican propaganda about this bill, fine. But let’s not pretend Iowa is bound to be a swing state forever. Oregon was a battleground state for a few cycles, but John McCain didn’t seriously compete for it this year. West Virginia was a battleground state in 2000, but hopeless territory for Democrats in 2004 and 2008.

Democratic gains in voter registration could make this purple state blue if Culver and the statehouse Democrats give us a solid record of achievements to run on in 2010. If that happens, don’t count on Iowa’s six electoral votes being up for grabs during the 2012 general election.

I am also unconvinced that the electoral college ensures presidential candidates pay attention to small states. When was the last time a presidential candidate spent time in uncompetitive small states like the Dakotas, Montana, or Vermont?

John Deeth is right:

# The person with the most votes should win.

# It would be better if the Constitution actually said so.

# But National Popular Vote is a nice stopgap.

# If big states want National Popular Vote, it will pass without Iowa.

# The caucuses, not the electoral votes, are what makes Iowa important.

And about those caucuses: we won’t have competitive caucuses on the Democratic side in 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some major Republican presidential candidates skip Iowa. It didn’t stop McCain from winning the nomination last year.

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20 Days Out

(Yes, I know it's really 18 and I'm two days late.)

What Changed?

Really, not much has changed. If you look at where things were last week (Obama gaining ground, McCain losing it) this week is just an extension of those trends. With two Presidential debates and the VP debates under the voters' belts (the polls haven't quite caught up to Wednesday's debate yet), the map continues to look very blue, even if some individual states are fluctuating.

Obama holds all last week's “likely” and “lean” states, with Michigan and Pennsylvania (38 EV) moving from “lean Obama” to “likely Obama”. FL, CO, NH and VA (52 EV) move from “toss up” to “lean Obama”.

West Virginia and North Dakota (8 EV) join the toss-up states this week, with McCain leading in WV by 2.8% and in ND by just .5% Of all the current “toss up” states, Obama leads in NV, MO, OH and NC. McCain leads in ND, WV and IN.

In a troubling sign for McCain, Montana moves back into “lean McCain” and for the first time, so does Georgia (18 EV combined).

Where they stand:

Obama:  Start picking out furniture and interviewing for your cabinet members. Only a major scandal or historic national event could derail the O train at this point.

The only question now is this: Does Obama focus on running up the score by campaigning for himself in tossup states and “lean McCain” states, or does he slow down and shift tactics.  He could, for example start holding rallies with (but really for) close congressional candidates, even in strong red or blue states. Or, he could slowly reduce his campaign schedule and start focusing on the transition team as some have suggested.

McCain: It's probably over. If McCain can win four or five of the tossup states  he can potentially avoid the election being called a “landslide”.

However, given what it might take to do that (serious $ and mud slinging), it might benefit McCain to focus on salvaging his reputation by ratcheting down the attack ads and vicious sentiment and running a more honorable and humane campaign. Like Obama, McCain may be able and better served to shift some resources and time to congressional races. 

According to, their simulation engine shows Obama winning 99.5%  of the last 1000 simulations, with an average electoral vote of 340 to McCain's 198.

If the election were held today, and  every state voted according to the latest poll average, Obama would win in a landslide–364-174 electoral votes.

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