Thursday, November 06, 2014

Numbers Part 1: The People's Republic Stands Alone

Terry Branstad made much this election of his effort to win Lee County, the little bump on the bottom of the state and one of only two he'd never won in seven tries.

He succeeded, but there was never any serious talk about winning that 99th county.

Johnson County has its long standing reputation as the People's Republic, the most liberal spot in the state. And on Tuesday, we were the only county in the state to support Jack Hatch, just as we were the only county to support Roxanne Conlin for Senate in 2010.

Secession talks are under way. 

Not only were we the only county - we were the only county by a lot. Jack Hatch carried Johnson County with a solid 59%. His next best share was just 45, in his home county of Polk.

Remember that range: 14 percent or so.

To win a statewide race in Iowa, a Democrat needs about 65% in Johnson County. It's not about just winning, it's about running up the score, to make up for other places that are even more Republican than we are Democratic. (Sioux County: 91% Branstad.)

Bruce Braley hit that 65% mark, but the People's Republic was more of an outlier than usual. Braley's next best percentage was just 52, in his home county of Black Hawk.

Joni Ernst's Mom. Soldier. Pigs. persona played beautifully in about 90 counties, but grated on our tender academic sensibilities. It was the old "nobody I know voted for her" fallacy. More than in any other election I recall, I had non-political people coming up to me, expressing visceral distaste for Pig Lady, and asking incredulously if she actually had a chance to win. Yes, I told them off record. (Unlike most Johnson County liberals, I've actually run a race in a rural district, and lost badly.)

No, Johnson County's style is more beardy and professorial: "fluke" congressman Dave Loebsack, now the state's top ranking Democrat, took 69 percent and easily survived his second Republican wave year. But again, look at the margin over the next best county, Jefferson, where Loebsack took a 56 share.

Save this rule of thumb for next time. That 65% Johnson County share of the vote works across the ballot. The statewide Democrats who won, incumbents for life Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald, topped 65% easily. Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson fell just short at 64, and lost a tantalizingly close race to pseudo-incumbent Paul Pate. (Pate won with under 50% as the Libertarian scored 3 points.)

State Auditor candidate Jonathan Neiderbach also fell just short of the target at 64% in a semi-open race; GOP incumbent Mary Mosiman was appointed last year and running statewide for the first time. Sherrie Taha, the hapless Secretary of Agriculture candidate,  trailed the rest of the Democratic ticket at 56%.

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