Friday, May 21, 2010

Branstad Back to the Future with Absentees

Branstad Back to the Future with Absentees

Terry Branstad is going back to the future in more ways than just his very presence. He's also revived the old-school Republican vote by mail drive.

Back in the `90s, GOP general election campaigns always featured a mass absentee request mailing to registered Republicans. These usually featured the stalwart Chuck Grassley, then beloved by all Republicans.

But things changed in the 21st century, and I don't just mean Grassley's approval ratings. In the post-Florida era, Republicans started to get away from early voting, pushing their voters to hold off till Election Day and selling the idea that early voting is "fraud." "Voter Integrity" (sic) programs popped up to challenge absentees in college towns.

But Terry Branstad, who I remind you retired in 1998 with a lifetime undefeated record, has revived the old-fashioned mail drive. Even many Democratic households are getting the absentee mailer, and today Mike Mauro reports that Republicans have a three to one absentee edge in the June primary.

Some of that is that the GOP has more interesting down-ballot races with big fields (four congressional candidates in CD 2 and seven in CD 3). But as I tell my former colleague Douglas Burns, who as a really good overview of the governor's race, most of that is Terry.
“Johnson County is one of the top 10 Republican counties in the state,” Deeth said, noting that there are more Republicans by the numbers there than in decidedly more GOP geography in the state.

This year, Deeth said, there are no contested courthouse races for Democrats in Johnson County. The only contest for the Democrats in Johnson County is the U.S. Senate race, widely believed to be a lock for Des Moines lawyer Roxanne Conlin. This means Democrats and independents will be more likely to vote in the GOP gubernatorial primary — which Deeth said is clearly to Branstad’s advantage.
Typically our Democratic primaries are about the courthouse; I refer you yet again to 1998, with 1000 more votes for county recorder than for governor. The crossover Republicans left governor blank. This year, with five unopposed Democratic county incumbents running, those folks are staying in the GOP.

Here in Johnson County we have five registered Dems for every two Republicans, yet Republicans are running nearly even in returned ballots, with 146 to the Dems' 175 through the end of Thursday. And Democratic requests stopped dead in their tracks early last week when John Stellmach dropped his primary challenge to Dave Jacoby.

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