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Iowa Politics Roundup: GOP Chair Credits Focus on Independent Voters PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 05 November 2010 13:42

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn attributed this week’s big Republican wins at the statewide, legislative, and county levels to the party’s focusing on independent voters – just like President Barack Obama did with his win in 2008 – and a clear, consistent message.

“We did it with unprecedented coordination, and we did it by targeting independent voters,” Strawn said two days after the election in which Republicans wrested control of the governor’s office and the Iowa House from Democrats. “One thing that we had learned in the past is Republicans spend a lot of time talking to Republican voters, but they hadn’t reached out to independent voters in this state.”

Strawn said that’s what the Obama campaign did very effectively in 2008. So Republicans began identifying and targeting those independent voters in fall 2009, finding out what issues they cared about.

“And overwhelmingly it was jobs, it was the economy, it was the overspending, and it was the debt that they saw here in Des Moines,” Strawn said. “And over the course of the year, we continued to talk to those voters, and going into the final weekend of the election we had actually identified 100,000 Iowans – independent voting Iowans – who had identified with the Republican ticket and were part of our turnout operation.”

Republicans’ voter program showed that a successful statewide candidate would have to net 100,000 to 120,000 new votes. Former Governor Terry Branstad won the gubernatorial election Tuesday by just under 125,000 votes. In addition, House Republican candidates received 200,000 more votes than House Democratic candidates – roughly 606,000 for Republicans to less than 400,000 for Democrats.

Republicans this year increased their major-donor revenue about 30 percent compared to last election cycle and saw a “volunteer surge” at the end of the campaign that allowed them to shift volunteers’ focus in the last 48 hours of the campaign to targeted legislative races. Republicans put volunteers to work contacting voters in those key races, and ended up winning in five out of six targeted Senate districts and eight out of 10 targeted House districts.

Strawn also attributed Republicans’ success this year to its candidates using a consistent message since January 2009.

“Republicans had a clear, unified message about what one-party Democrat rule was doing in Des Moines,” Strawn said. “So you had all the Republican leaders in Des Moines speaking with a clear, consistent message, and it clearly penetrated with the voters all the way down to those local legislative levels.”

Strawn rejected the notion that Republican wins in Iowa came as part of a national Republican wave or anti-incumbent sentiment.

“I don’t think it was an anti-incumbent mood; I think it was an anti-one-party-Democrat-majority wave,” Strawn said. “Tuesday was a clear rejection of the Culver/Gronstal/Murphy policies coming out of Des Moines. And Senator Gronstal has got to recognize that Iowans rejected the one-party rule that they had seen out of Des Moines.”

Branstad Sees Potential Positions for Defeated Candidates

Governor-elect Branstad said Thursday that he sees potential positions in his administration for former attorney-general candidate Brenna Findley, state-treasurer candidate Dave Jamison, gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts, and even Democratic Secretary of State Michael Mauro, who lost to Republican Matt Schultz on Tuesday.

“Yes, I think there’s a possibility for them,” Branstad said. “I think there’s also a possibility for Mike Mauro. I think he was a very good secretary of state. I called Mike to offer my condolences, and I think he’s a very capable individual that I certainly want to consider as well.”

As for former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, Branstad said he hasn’t spoken to him about a position in the administration. “I don’t know that he has an interest in serving in the administration,” Branstad said. “I think he’s got other things that he’s taken on.”

Branstad said he expects all state-government department directors to submit a letter of resignation to him when he enters office in January. He will then interview them and go from there.

Branstad said he expects to decide before he takes office on a new director of economic development, a department he has said he wants to move to a public/private partnership.

As for other state-government workers, Branstad said he’s going to ask for “reasonableness” from those representing state employees during negotiations for new contracts for state workers. He also said he wants that process to be open to the public.

State employees should contribute to their health insurance, Branstad said. The governor elect has said he wants to cut the budget 15 percent over five years, something that would likely require major concessions from representatives of state employees.

“I want to treat employees fairly,” Branstad said. “We have a lot of dedicated people that work for state government, I want to assure them that I’m going to work with them, and I want to treat them fairly. But I also want to treat the taxpayers fairly, and we are facing some big budget problems, and we have to make thoughtful decisions in terms of our level of spending.”