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July 10th, 2009

Republicans Ripe for a Rebound in Iowa?

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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republican-symbolThis spring, Doug Gross commissioned a poll for the Iowa First Foundation. The poll was designed to help Iowa Republicans identify a winning gubernatorial candidate. One of the areas to which Mr. Gross drew attention while sharing the poll’s findings with the media was the issue of how people felt about the Republican Party. The poll’s conclusions painted a devastating picture for Iowa Republicans.

Below are the finding for Gross’ Iowa First Foundation Poll:

The Party of the Future – Republicans 25%, Democrats 38%

Open and Welcoming – Republicans 13%, Democrats 33%

Fair to Everyone – Republicans 17%, Democrats 27%

Arrogant – Republicans 30%, Democrats 22%

Backwards-looking – Republicans 30%, Democrats 13%

Reformers – Republicans 18%, Democrats 34%
Racist – Republicans 16%, Democrats 8%

Willing to listen to those who disagree with them – Republicans 15%, Democrats 28%

Will fight for the most vulnerable in our society, like children and the elderly – Republicans 17%, Democrats 46%.

Gross, armed with his polling results that backed up his personal beliefs on what the Republican Party had become, then began to make the rounds with various media outlets warning that the party would be obsolete unless it abandoned its long held positions on abortion and traditional marriage.

One would think that, with the devastating news that was contained in the Iowa First Foundation Poll, the favorability rating for of the Republican Party in Iowa would be embarrassingly low, or at least far below that of the Iowa Democrats. Surprisingly, that is not the case. poll found the favorability rating of the Republican Party is very similar to that of Democratic Party.

While neither party breaks the 50% threshold, Democrats only outperform Republicans by a mere three percentage points. With an anti-incumbent tea party movement sweeping the nation, Republicans nationally and here in Iowa could benefit. In addition, with Governor Culver’s main legislative accomplishment (I-Jobs) remaining unpopular with the people, Republicans should expect to see the favorability of their brand continue to improve.

Question: Please tell me whether or not you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of:

The Republican Party
Favorable: 46% (Statewide)
Favorable : 81% (Registered Republicans)

Unfavorable: 43% (Statewide)
Unfavorable: 15% (Registered Republicans)

The Democratic Party
Favorable: 49% (Statewide)
Unfavorable: 41% (Statewide)

With Iowa Democrats having a 100,000 registered voter edge over Republicans, control of the governor’s office, and control of both chambers in the legislature, a three point edge in their favorability rating should be expected. Still, the news media and some people within the Republican Party believe that, unless the Republican Party becomes more inclusive by changing its position on a few of its core principles, it has no chance at winning elections.

Newly elected Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, Matt Strawn told The Iowa Republican that he has seen firsthand signs that the Republican Party has turned the corner and brighter days are ahead. Strawn attributes much of the newfound optimism about the party to the principled stand of Republican elected officials.

Chairman Strawn said, “The numbers reflect what I have witnessed as I travel around the state. Republican leaders and elected officials in Iowa have shown the voters, by their actions, that there is a clear difference between the Republican Party and the Democrat majority.”

“All Iowans understand what political party is responsible for the dreadful condition of our state budget. Republicans are, and will remain, united in their principled opposition to the reckless budgeting practices of Governor Culver and the Democrats,” Strawn concluded.

Strawn and his staff have worked tirelessly to change the image of the Republican Party in Iowa. Since being elected in January, Strawn has traveled to countless county meeting to introduce himself to activists. More notably, under Strawn’s leadership, the Republican Party of Iowa has partnered with county organizations to host low-dollar fundraising events. This past spring, the Blackhawk County GOP partnered with RPI to hold a tribute to former party co-chair Leon Mosley. Later this month, RPI will partner with six eastern Iowa counties when Congressman Mike Pence travels to Iowa to headline another event.

With the renewed optimism of the Republican Party and the Democrats’ willingness to push an unpopular agenda, Chairman Strawn and the State Party have an opportunity to cut into the much-discussed voter registration advantage currently held by the Democrat Party.

Associated Press reporter Mike Glover has been fixated on what he believes is a Republican electorate that too conservative. Interestingly enough, 40% of those polled (Republicans, Democrats, and Independents) in poll identified themselves as conservatives.

Question: On political issues, do you consider yourself a liberal, a moderate, or a conservative?

Liberal: 14%
Moderate: 39%
Conservative: 40%
Don’t know/Other: 7%

While Glover’s most recent story portrays something more like Mr. Gross’ doom and gloom scenario, neither political party can win without garnering a significant portion of the support of those in the middle. This isn’t anything new, but what has changed in the Republicans’ favor is the issue set.

In the previous two elections, Republicans have had to defend an unpopular president and an unpopular war. Now, Democrats in Iowa have to defend an unpopular Governor, a huge budget deficit, and an $813 million borrowing plan that Iowans will be paying off for the next 20 years.

Republicans don’t need to change their principles in order to win elections; they need to use the unpopular Democratic agenda in Iowa to build a winning coalition of voters. For the first time in nearly a decade, the current issue set gives Republicans an advantage in going after the voters in the middle.

About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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