Following the historic success we shared last November, Iowa Republicans received the mixed blessing of having two of our distinguished State Senators assume vital roles within Governor Branstad’s administration. The vacancies created by their departure required the Iowa GOP to defend Republican-held seats in two special elections. We took nothing for granted. The work of our excellent candidates, Joni Ernst and Jack Whitver, coupled with our proven voter program, and close coordination with Senate leaders, helped lead to overwhelming Republican victories in both SD 48 and SD 35.
Our success in each of these elections underscores that our momentum is deep-seated and not symptomatic of a national wave. Iowa Republicans are determined to send conservative leaders to Des Moines to help restore fiscal sanity in state government. These specials are also a testament to the organizational strength of our party. In the 2010 cycle, we made considerable progress in building a political network of volunteers and activists. Both Whitver and Ernst were able to plug in to this network to help turn out Republican voters.
While beleaguered Iowa Democrats will claim both seats were uncompetitive, unwinnable terrain for Democrats, recent history illustrates both seats have a competitive nature. In SD 35, Larry Noble won with only 52% of the vote in 2006, compared to Whitver’s commanding 63% win, Tuesday night. In SD 48, the numbers are even more compelling as current Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds was first elected with 53% in 2008, while her successor Ernst earned a whopping 67% of the vote on January 4.
Simply put, what were once Senate seats that merely tilted Republican have now become rock-solid Republican seats. By taking these seats off the table, Iowa Republicans can continue to go on offense against Democrat incumbents as we focus our efforts on winning the two seats necessary for control in 2012.
Early Voting Performance
Following the 2010 midterm elections, which saw an 83% increase in Iowa Republicans’ early voting performance, the Iowa GOP used the two special elections to continue improving upon our absentee and early voting program.
With Republicans enjoying a registration advantage in both SD 48 and SD 35, the success of our candidates hinged on our ability to turn out base Republican voters. We used many of the proven tactics from the 2010 cycle to get Republicans to the polls including direct mail and volunteer phone calls. One area we enjoyed particular success over our Democratic counterparts was absentee voting. Our ability to “bank” votes before Election Day in an area where Iowa Democrats have historically enjoyed an advantage meant our candidates had to defend a lead rather than play catch-up.
Here is a look at the disparity in returned ballots between Republicans and Democrats:
- Nearly 6 to 1 GOP advantage in returned absentee ballots in SD 35.
- 3 to 1 GOP advantage in returned absentee ballots in SD 48.
These wins represent more than just two Senate seats. They are the first Republican victories of the 2012 cycle. We will continue to build on this success as we work tirelessly to bring a permanent conservative governing majority to Iowa.
Matthew N. Strawn
Photo by Dave Davidson
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