# Turnout

Branstad starting term with net negative approval rating?

Governor Terry Branstad defeated Chet Culver by more than 100,000 votes in November, but Public Policy Polling found no signs of a honeymoon in their survey of 1,077 Iowa voters between January 7 and 9:

Despite defeating Chet Culver and returning to office by a 53-43 margin in November, Terry Branstad is no more popular than his predecessor. Iowans disapprove of Culver’s four-year record, 41-46, but they are also down on Branstad, 40-44. The two post almost identical numbers with independents, and are equally polarizing across party lines.

PPP’s Tom Jensen comments,

Only 64% of Republicans like [Branstad], a lower number than you would expect and perhaps an indicator of some residual animosity toward him from his closer than expected primary contest. He unsurprisingly has little support from Democrats, only 18% of whom have a favorable opinion of him, and independents split 45/35 against him as well. […]

So if voters don’t like Branstad that much, you might ask, how did he still win by such a healthy margin? Well they certainly don’t think much of outgoing Democrat Chet Culver either. Only 41% of voters approve of the work he did as Governor to 46% who disapprove. Voters who didn’t like either Branstad or Culver likely went overwhelmingly for the challenger on the premise that he would at least take things in a different and possibly better direction.

I would add that PPP was polling all Iowa voters this month, but the group of voters who turned out in November skewed Republican. The statewide statistical report (pdf file) shows that the total number of Iowans who cast ballots in the midterm (1,121,175) was just under 53 percent of all registered Iowa voters. However, GOP turnout was nearly 69 percent (of 646,396 registered Republicans, 445,829 voted), while Democratic turnout was only 56.5 percent (of 698,227 registered Democrats, 394,252 voted). Republicans may not all like Branstad, but they at least viewed him as the lesser evil.

The PPP poll suggests that Branstad does not return to the governor’s post with a popular mandate for his ideas. That should stiffen the spines of Iowa Senate Democrats during this year’s legislative session.

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Derek Eadon will direct the Iowa Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign

The Iowa Democratic Party announced today that Derek Eadon has begun working as the director for the 2010 “coordinated campaign,” the Democrats’ main voter turnout operation. From an IDP press release:

Derek will oversee the Coordinated Campaign, which will focus heavily on organizing the grassroots, from volunteer coordination to get-out the vote-programs.

“My job is to build on the organization already put into place by the Iowa Democratic Party so that Democrats win here in November. I am confident we can do that and I am eager to get the Coordinated Campaign underway,” said Eadon.

Eadon is a 2006 Coordinated Campaign veteran, working as a field organizer in the Cedar Rapids area. He then became the first field organizer hired in Iowa for President Obama’s campaign, and he worked for the Obama campaign throughout the 2008 election. Prior to this, Eadon was the Iowa State Director for Organizing for America.

I wish Eadon every success in his work, and I hope this year’s coordinated campaign is as successful as the 2006 turnout operation. The Iowa Democratic Party did an excellent job that year of focusing on Democratic voters who were unreliable for off-year elections. Although the Obama campaign had an excellent field operation before the Iowa caucuses, I was critical of letting the Obama campaign take over the 2008 coordinated campaign, and I felt the down-ticket gains weren’t as strong as they could have been. (I wasn’t alone.) I do credit the Obama campaign for its focus on early voting in 2008; that saved several Democratic seats in the state legislature. A strong absentee ballot drive also helped Curt Hanson win last year’s special election in Iowa House district 90.

Even the best turnout operation is no substitute for having this state’s leaders deliver on issues of importance to the Democratic base. But that’s a topic for another post.

Speaking of GOTV, John Morgan argued persuasively at the Pennsylvania Progressive blog that Organizing for America is a poor substitute for the 50-state strategy the Democratic National Committee carried out under Howard Dean’s leadership.  

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Which party would benefit from nationalizing the election?

Some Republicans are excited about making this year's Congressional races a referendum on Barack Obama's policies. I see their point, since Democrats the president has lost some ground with independents, and Republicans benefit from an "enthusiasm gap" right now. The right direction/wrong track numbers are also frightening for Democrats, and the health reform bill is likely to give the GOP good fodder for attacks.

However, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen told Greg Sargent that he isn't worried about Republicans nationalizing this year's House races. (continues after the jump)

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Welcoming wishes for Iowa Democratic Party field director Dena Gleason

The Iowa Democratic Party announced yesterday that Dena Gleason will be field director for the 2009/2010 election cycle. From the IDP’s press release:

“Grassroots organizing has been the foundation of recent successful Democratic campaigns. Dena learned the value of these techniques while working for now President Barack Obama. She will be a key player in implementing a field strategy to mobilize the thousands of new Democratic registrants and volunteers recruited over the last two election cycles,” said Michael Kiernan, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. “Dena brings with her cutting edge organizational techniques that were used so successfully to elect President Obama. I am excited to welcome Dena to the team as we prepare to re-elect Governor Culver and the Democratic Ticket.”  

Gleason, originally from southern Minnesota, worked for President Obama during the primary in Iowa, Kansas, Texas and Pennsylvania. She returned to Iowa in the general election to continue her work for President Obama. Most recently Dena worked for SEIU’s Change that Works where she mobilized health care supporters across Iowa.

I would like to congratulate Gleason and wish her every success in her new job. I have a few other wishes too:

May Culver and our legislative leaders remember that Gleason can’t wave a magic wand and deliver an effective GOTV campaign.

May Iowa leaders motivate newly-registered Democrats to vote in a non-presidential year by showing them tangible results from Democratic control of the legislature and governor’s chair. Many big problems in this state haven’t been addressed during the past three legislative sessions.

May legislative leaders excite key constituencies about volunteering next year–for instance, by passing a good labor bill and moving forward instead of backward on environmental protection. I currently hear a lot of “Why should I bother?” from experienced phone bankers and door knockers.

May Gleason’s field plan prioritize legislative districts we won and lost by narrow margins in 2008, so that Democrats are not left wondering what might have been parts of the state where Democratic turnout was weak last year.

May Gleason learn from the Obama campaign’s mistakes as well as its successes, so that field organizers and volunteers do more to educate new voters about filling out the whole ballot.

Please share your own welcoming wishes in this thread.

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Same-day voter registration works well

Secretary of State Mike Mauro announced last Friday that a record 1,546,453 Iowans voted in the general election, including 47,553 who registered to vote on election day. In the days before Iowa allowed same-day voter registration, many people did not vote because by the time they became interested in a political campaign, the deadline to register had passed.

Republicans across the country throw around allegations about voter fraud, but states that have had same-day registration for a long time have not experienced this problem.

Take Minnesota, for instance. About one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Al Franken and Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race. And yet:

[I]t’s worth noting that neither the Al Franken nor Norm Coleman camps has accused election officials of allowing significant numbers of ineligible people to vote. The two campaigns’ close scrutiny of events on Nov. 4 apparently has found nothing notably defective in either the voter registration or sign-in that occurred at the polls.

That’s the way it has been in every election since Minnesota began allowing voters to register at the polls in 1973. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said that, in his 24 years as a state and county elections administrator, the number of cases of orchestrated group efforts to subvert the law by registering improperly or voting multiple times has been “exactly zero.”

“There has been the occasional individual” who attempted to vote when or where he or she was not eligible. “But we have their driver’s license or their Social Security numbers,” or other means of detecting inaccurate registrations. “We find them and we prosecute them,” he said.

Only nine states allow voters to register on election day. I’d like to see same-day voter registration implemented across the country.

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Jackie Norris on Iowa Democrats' down-ticket disappointment

Iowa Independent’s Jason Hancock recently interviewed Jackie Norris, who ran Barack Obama’s Iowa campaign during the general election. (She conducted the interview before Norris accepted her new job as First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.)

I found this exchange particularly interesting:

II: What effect do you think the Obama campaign will have on future campaigns, especially here in Iowa?

JN: I think Iowa is disappointed that more legislative candidates and candidates like Becky Greenwald didn’t win, that we didn’t see more of a coattail effect for down ballot candidates. The lesson learned is that in the counties where the Democrats weren’t organized before they realized that when they pool their efforts and work together they could actually get something done. I think what we’ve done is come in and be the catalyst for local political organizations. My hope is that once we leave they will still be energized and motivated for the next thing, whether that is a school board, a county auditor or a statehouse candidate.

II: But why weren’t the Obama coattails longer in Iowa?

JN: Iowans are notoriously independent. I also think that a lot of the people who voted were new voters and while we educated them enough to get them out to support the president they need to now be educated about the down ballot races. Not to say we didn’t do that, because I think we did see gains. But I think no one should assume voters would vote straight-ticket Democrat just because they turned out for a Democratic presidential candidate. The state and local parties need to continue to reach out to those voters in the future.

Before the election I often urged volunteers to remind voters to fill out the whole ballot and not just the oval next to Obama’s name. Every once in a while someone would ask why I was so worried about the potential “drop-off” (that is, the people who vote Democrat for president but don’t cast a vote in the down-ticket races).

Jackie Norris’s comments to Iowa Independent suggest that she thinks drop-off was the biggest problem for our statehouse candidates. That is consistent with what I’ve been hearing from staff and volunteers around the state. It is also possible, though, that the Republican scare-mongering about one-party socialist rule drove some Obama supporters away from down-ticket Democrats.

I still want to see more thorough analysis of the close statehouse races in Iowa, both the ones we lost and the ones we won.

Did the races we lost have a larger proportion of “drop-off” ballots? Or was the problem more likely to be related to ticket-splitting?

Several of our incumbents appeared to lose on election night but won once the early votes were counted. In the districts where we fell short, was the proportion of early votes lower than in the districts we held?

If you are willing to volunteer to look closely at the precinct-level results in one or more Iowa House or Senate districts, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

Although further analysis needs to be done, the disappointing down-ticket results suggest to me that Iowa Democrats need more of a coordinated GOTV campaign in 2010 and 2012 than we had this year.

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