I’ve been seeing reports around the state about low voter turnout during Iowa’s Republican primary. I’ve heard several pundits predict this as well.
One one hand I’m surprised because, at least in my Congressional district, we have a two competitive races for Congress and for U.S. Senate.
On the other hand, I’m not surprised because it is a mid-term election, and based on fundraising and general lack of interest by some “top tier” candidates to get into the U.S. Senate race it seemed there wasn’t that much interest in retaking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Tom Harkin.
It really wasn’t until Congressman Bruce Braley’s screw-up that new life was breathed into the race which many predicted this race to be Braley’s to win or lose.
So what is problem here, if the anecdotal evidence I’m seeing comes to pass and we have a lower turnout than what we had in 2010? A couple of things I think. People are not inspired by their choices. A general lack of name recognition has plagued the Republican field and that has not helped. Another reason could be because of the potential for this nomination to be decided by a convention (which is likely to happen in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District campaign) with a large field. People could think, “well my vote won’t count anyway, so why bother?”
Personally I think that’s a horrible attitude and I don’t understand people not being motivated to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That’s the bare minimum one should do in exercising their rights.
That aside, I’ve been asked who does this help? It will help the candidates that have the strongest ground game. TV ads help increase name recognition, but they don’t get people to the polls.
There have been doubts among activists about how strong Joni Ernst’s ground game actually is. How much door knocking has been done by the campaigns. I had a Clovis activist write me this afternoon:
That’s been my observation. None (ground game) on her part. I define ground game as committed, informed grassroots activists (few are supporting her in this state–astonishingly few) and especially people who are doing the disciplined type of work such as door to door work. I am not aware of any substantive door to door work for her at all.
Sam’s campaign twitter account poked gentle fun at her lack of active volunteers / ground game, and then, perhaps in response, she announced with fanfare a “Super Saturday” for this past weekend, of door knocking in Polk County. No evidence any of that took place.
By contrast, several of the CD 3 candidates have done many orders of magnitude more door knocking in just 1/4 of the state than Ernst has done statewide (Zaun, Schultz, Cramer, and perhaps even Young as well). Sam has had people door knocking throughout the state, of course all volunteers, and Jacobs has had his full time staffers door knocking around the state as well. If Ernst wins she will be the first candidate that I’m aware of to win an important race in this state with (1) Almost no support amongst the committed, grassroots activists, and (2) almost no ground game.
I don’t think anyone will deny that Sam Clovis’ campaign has been a hardworking one. Will it make the difference? We’ll see. Also the activist above isn’t taking into account GOTV phone efforts which do help.
I suspect that if Clovis outperforms his polling this is the scenario he is looking for. I think what we will be most likely to see tonight if we do have a low turnout is that no one hits the 35% threshold and we’ll see this nomination decided at the state convention. I’m not a betting man so I wouldn’t put money on it, but in this scenario it seems to me that those with the strongest ground game, not the greatest amount of air time have the advantage.
Like I have said earlier I think the 3rd Congressional District race is going to convention, but a lower turn-out could help Brad Zaun who is known from his previous Congressional campaign and he works very, very hard. He won his last primary mainly because he outworked the rest of the field. Regardless I still believe this is headed to convention.
Granted at the time of my publishing this we are entering the likely busy times for the polls as people get off work. The bad weather predicted tonight could also impact those headed to the polls later though.
We will have to wait and see.