Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Number Salad

The Numbers of the Night

54 percent: President-Elect Obama's winning margin in Iowa, to John McCain's 44.7. Obama's 9 point margin ends the string of Iowa nailbiters that had Al Gore carrying the state by 4000 votes in 2000, and flipping to George Bush by 10,000 votes four years ago.

70 percent: Obama's winning percentage in his best county, the People's Republic of Johnson County. Obama exceeded a local Lyndon Johnson record of 68 percent from 1964. The dusty old canvass books may tell if Obama's margin breaks any sort of FDR record. Johnson County had by far the biggest Obama percentage in the state.

Other counties that traditionally go heavily Democratic, such as Des Moines, were just over 60 percent. Obama had an unusual hot spot on the Minnesota border, topping 60 in Winneshiek, Worth, and in his second best county, 63 percent in Howard. Democrats picked up highly targeted state House and Senate races in Winneshiek, so the extra effort may have been a factor.

81 percent: McCain's winning percentage in his best county. One guess... yeah, Sioux County.

30,069: Obama's Johnson County winning margin. Local Democrats set a goal of 25,000 months ago, and far exceeded John Kerry's 19,000 margin.

4,173: John McCain votes in Iowa County.

4,173: Barack Obama votes in Iowa County, giving Iowa County the Golden Hanging Chad Award for close results. Cedar County got national attention in 2000 with an election night tie, but less attention for a final count that gave Al Gore the county by two votes.

55.2 percent: The percentage of Johnson County's vote that came in as early ballots. Yes, more people voted before Election Day than on Election Day. Statewide, 533,967 voters had returned absentee ballots through midday Tuesday, 16 percent higher than 2004. Absentees postmarked by Monday, Nov. 3 can still be counted, which might affect a couple of the races listed below.

62.6 percent: Senator Tom Harkin's winning margin. Some polls showed low-profile Republican Christopher Reed breaking 40 percent, but he landed at 37.4. That can now be marked as the official baseline for Republican votes in Iowa, a few points above Democrat Art Small's 2004 loss to Chuck Grassley.

O. Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa reports that Reed has still not called to congratulate Harkin, but then, neither has Jim Ross Lightfoot, who lost to Harkin 12 years ago.

35.7 percent: Republican Dave Hartsuch's count in the 1st Congressional District, lowest among the ten major party nominees. Rob Hubler made the deep red 5th District as competitive as any of the others, with 37.3 against Steve King.

42.2 percent: Republican Kim Schmett's percentage, making his race against 3rd District Democrat Leonard Boswell, surprisingly, the closest in the state.

0: Iowa women elected to Congress or governorship, as Iowa remains in the club with Mississippi. Democrats had high hopes for Becky Greenwald in the 4th, but Tom Latham held her under 40 percent.

Likewise, the Iowa Republican blogosphere was convinced, without any neutral indications to guide them, that Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the 2nd District was the sleeper candidate of the entire nation. But she only pulled 38.9 percent to Democrat Dave Loebsack's 57.1, with the remaining 4 points going to two other candidates.

31-19: The new Iowa Senate margin. Democrats gained three Senate districts. Swati Dandekar won an expected victory in open District 18 in Marion, and Mary Jo Wilhelm knocked off GOP incumbent Mark Zieman in District 8 in the northeast corner. Steve Sodders took open District 22 from the GOP in Marshall County. But two incumbent Democrats went down in defeat: Jeff Danielson in Waterloo's District 10 and Frank Wood in the Quad Cities District 42.

6: State Rep. Wes Whitead's lead in House District 1. Not percentage lead, vote lead. Six (6) votes, the state's closest. Seesaw results and conflicting reports kept the Iowa House in question during the night. For a few hours, Rep. Elesha Gayman was shown as losing, but the highly-targeted Democrat held on once the absentees were added in.

160: Democrat Larry Marek's winning margin in House in House District 89 for a Democratic gain. Marek won with a big margin in the Johnson County part of the district, the same way Becky Schmitz carried the corresponding Senate District 45 two years ago.

56-44: The new Iowa House margin, with six Democratic gains. In addition to Marek, the pickups were open District 16 in the northeast (John Beard) and 13 in Mason City (Sharon Steckman). Kerry Burt knocked off ex-TV anchor Tammy Weincek in Waterloo's District 21. Gene Ficken defeated incumbent Dan Rassmussen in District 23 in Buchanan and Black Hawk counties. Phyllis Thede, who narrowly lost a Senate seat to Hartsuch two years ago, beat incumbent Jamie Van Fossen in Davenport's District 81.

But Democrats lost three seats, including two in two northern Linn County. Nick Wagner beat Gretchen Lawyer in open District 36 (Dandekar's old seat), and Renee Schulte bashed first term Rep. Art Staed over the head with a flowerpot (a frequent ad theme) in District 37 by 47 votes, which is within the provisional ballot and late absentee ballot margin.

Incumbent Democrat Mark Davitt appears to have lost in House District 74, though the Des Moines Register reports that Davitt's campaign gathered different numbers and says they won.

If all results hold (Staed and Whitead may not), that's a Democratic gain of three from the last session, but only a gain of two over the 2006 election results. In perhaps the most frustrating result for Democrats, party switcher Dawn Pettengill held on in Benton County's District 39.

60.8 percent: The narrow winning margin for the $20 million Johnson County conservation bond. The issue got off to a roaring start with 70 percent of the absentee, but saw its margin drop through the night. Two vote No committees fought the measure, but by the time they got started many votes were already in the box. (Like mine--making their two robocalls asking me to vote no pretty much moot.) Local Republicans were urging a No vote on their headquarters answering machine, while the Democrats formally endorsed a Yes vote. With so many Democrats voting early, the election day pool of voters leaned more GOP than average. The measure won the Election Day vote in Iowa City by 60-40 but lost by the same margin in the rest of the county. Janelle Rettig of the Land Water Future vote Yes committee calculates the winning margin at 486 votes.

44: Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. Obama frequently credited Iowa for the Jan. 3 caucus win that sent him on the road to the White House, and that should help Iowa keep its place in the front of the line for the 2012 and 2016 nomination process.

Editor's note: Some of these numbers could change before results are certified, so take them with a grain of salt.

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