If Joni Ernst is successful in her State Senate bid in District 48 tonight, she will be the ninth new Republican to join the chamber. Ernst is running to fill the remainder of Kim Reynolds’ term, who will be sworn in as the state’s 47th Lieutenant Governor next week. Ernst is running against Ruth Smith of Lamoni. Smith lost to Reynolds by ten points in 2008.
Republicans have every right to be optimistic heading into today’s special election. Senate District 48, which encompasses seven counties in southern Iowa, has performed well for Republicans in recent elections. Branstad and Reynolds carried the district by 28-points in November. John McCain bested Obama in the area in 2008 even though Obama won the state by 10 points.
Sources tell TheIowaRepublican.com that, as of last week, 85 to 90 percent of the absentee requests have come from Republicans. The percentage of returned absentee ballots also reflect those numbers. Obviously, Senate Democrats have invested very little into this race. That said, it is also good to see Iowa Republicans taking the two special elections in the State Senate very seriously.
Since the legislature adjourned on March 30th of last year, the complexion of the Republican caucus has changed dramatically. Not only has the Republican caucus gotten larger and younger, but it’s also more geographically diverse.
With the redistricting process taking place before the next election, the expanded Republican footprint in the state may create more opportunities for the GOP to pick up seats in the 2012 cycle. Winning the majority may not happen in the next election cycle, but the makeover that is occurring in the State Senate gives Republicans reason to be optimistic beyond tonight’s election in District 48.
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