Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Is This Heaven? No, This is Iowa.

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Besides being the setting for the Kevin Costner classic Field of Dreams, Iowa is also one of the deciding states in this next election, and right now it’s anybody’s ballgame.

Four years ago President Obama spent innumerable hours coaxing Iowans onto his side of the ballot in order to win the all-important Iowa caucus. The grassroots campaign he planted there not only grew into his first major win in the fight for the Democratic nomination, but also a sweeping ten point victory over McCain in the presidential election. This year, though, things might not be so easy for the president.

What was once a solid four point lead earlier this year has dwindled to a negligible .2 point lead for Obama according to the most recent poll at realclearpolitics.com. So what’s the outlook for the rest of the election?

Before looking further into the current fight, let’s take a step back to look at Iowa’s political background.

Iowa

Up until 1988 Iowa voted primarily republican. The past two decades, though, have seen a shift in the direction of the Democratic Party. In five out of the last six presidential elections Iowa has gone blue. However, Iowa’s current Governor (Terry Branstad), Lt. Governor (Kim Reynolds), and Secretary of State (Matt Shultz) all proudly wave their GOP flags high.

In addition, each party has one senator in the state. The democrats lead in the house with three democrats and only two republicans representing Iowa.

Generally, eastern Iowa is more democratic, while the west houses more republicans.

As full campaigning mode begins, each side will continue to pour resources into Iowa, hoping to secure its six electoral votes. Going into the battle, both Romney and Obama have different advantages throughout the state.

Romney’s Advantages

A strong blue-collar population consisting of many farmers and railroad workers (especially near Sioux City in Northwestern Iowa) bodes well for Romney’s chances. However, many of those railroad workers are hesitant to vote for Romney because they are uneasy about his ambiguous stance on unions.

Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate might also have a critical impact on his chances of winning the Hawkeye state. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Ryan’s corn belt values align with those of many of Iowa voters, giving him strong appeal throughout the state. The Republicans are betting on this fact so much so that Ryan has been let loose on the state to campaign without Romney for the first time since becoming the Republican VP candidate.

Another plus for Romney is the low African American and Hispanic populations, with whom he has consistently polled lower than Obama.

Obama’s Advantages

Simply put, Obama has precedence on his side. As mentioned, Obama had a strong grassroots movement during the 2008 election. Despite lacking some of the enthusiasm from the last election, Obama’s campaign still knows how to use grassroots to its advantage.

Iowa has one of the largest populations of senior citizens in the country. Obama is currently trying to capitalize on some the fear that the Republican budget plans will change social security and gut medicare benefits.

One of Obama’s biggest assets is the current Iowa unemployment rate of 5.3%, one of the lowest in the nation. If unemployment continues to trend downward, Obama will have a better shot of taking the win.

Prediction as of Now:

This state is entirely up for grabs. Ultimately it will come down to who runs a better campaign within the state, which the next round of polls should help indicate. Currently, both parties are busy duking it out daily in the corn fields. Romney’s campaign shift will also undoubtedly shake things up in Iowa.

Assuming the republicans can run a more organized campaign than they have been so far, I think that they have enough going for them in Iowa to pull out a win. However, if the election took place today, I think Iowa would go blue.

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