Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Iowa Counties Flip To McCain

Four Iowa Counties Flip To McCain

Four Iowa counties which went Democratic in one of the biggest Republican landslides ever voted for John McCain last week--and one of these things is not like the others.

Swing State Project took a long-range look at voting trends and found 97 counties nationwide that backed Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in the 1984 landslide, yet supported John McCain while Barack Obama was scoring a--what should we call it? Let's say "comfortable victory."

Those counter-trend counties are concentrated in Appalachia, but four spots appear in Iowa. Three of these double-maverick anti-bellwethers are small rural counties: Davis, Monroe, and Ringgold. But the fourth is high-growth, suburban Dallas County.

Iowa was one of Mondale's stronger states at 46 percent, and the 1984 election was near the height of the farm crisis of the 1980s. That would help explain Davis, Monroe, and Ringgold.

Dallas County trended Republican between 2000 and 2004 as well, and a strong Republican performance there was key in George Bush taking the state back from the Democrats in 2004 after a Democratic winning streak dating back to Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Democrats are looking to Obama's election and the changed map, with wins in states like Indiana and Virginia that last voted Democratic in 1964, as a sign of realignment. One way to spot a realignment is to look for counter-trends of voters moving against the stream, and these four Iowa counties help make the case.

Swing State Project also found 85 counties nationwide that went for Bob Dole in Bill Clinton's solid 1996 win, but have now gone for Obama. None of those are in Iowa, and they tend to be large urban and suburban counties. "The sum population of all Mondale/McCain counties? 3,197,000," writes Swing State. "For all Dole/Obama counties: 25,846,000. There's pretty much the story of the 2008 election right there."

Open Left also looks at long-range trends. comparing 2008 to 1988. This map includes the eastern half of Iowa. There's not much of the green that indicates a trend from Dukakis toward Obama--but then again, Dukakis overperformed in Iowa as it was one of the handful of states he actually won. Johnson County only gets a little bit greener, but there wasn't much room for improvement. The Quad Cities are greener, as is the state's northeast corner, but the Dubuque area trended slightly Republican in the 20-year comparison.

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