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Political scientist says Iowa caucus will help state Republicans

The Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses will give Iowa Republicans a leg up heading into legislative races in 2012, a leading political observer says.

Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science at Iowa State University, said the Republican Party of Iowa will be more organized going into 2012 thanks to the competitive race for the GOP presidential nomination playing out in Iowa.

Steffen_Schmidt_091305110336_2227.jpg
Steffen_Schmidt_091305110336_2227.jpg

Steffen Schmidt

“It’s certain that the Republicans are the party this year that’s got a lot of momentum,” Schmidt said. “I’m surprised at how passive or quiet the Democrats in Iowa have really been. To some extent they haven’t pushed back a lot on a lot of the Republican positions on issues, and I don’t know when that’s going to begin but they better hurry up.”

Iowa Democrats will hold caucuses on Jan. 3 as well, but those will be “pretty low key,” Schmidt said, meaning less money coming into the state party and potentially less party building than in competitive caucus years.

“I think the party that has a presidential contest going that needs to try and get people to give money and turn out in order to get the presidential part done benefits, because the other part doesn’t have as much of a stake,” he said.

The RPI has raised $1.49 million so far this year, compared to $728,966 for the IDP, according to documents filed last month. The RPI took $740,201 from presidential candidates, and had $793,768 on hand at the end of August compared to just $111,878 for the IDP.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/matt_strawn_80x80.jpgMatt Strawn

RPI Chairman Matt Strawn said he expects the caucuses to be a continuation of a 30-month trend of voter registration gains for Republicans in the state. Over that time the party has narrowed a Democratic voter registration advantage from about 115,000 to about 30,000.

“With a robust caucus turnout I think we can get that close to parity,” Strawn said. “And what that does in those targeted legislative districts all across the state means we’re going to have more Republicans. And the greatest predictor of someone’s vote is their party affiliation.”

Strawn thinks the caucus process will narrow the gap in close legislative races, and help the GOP maintain control of the Iowa House and win control of the Iowa Senate. Republicans currently hold a 60-40 edge in the House, while Democrats hold a 25-24 Senate majority.

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Sue-dvorsky-80x80_2226.jpg

Sue Dvorsky

But IDP Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said the fact that Iowa Democrats already know their presidential candidate and their slate of Congressional candidates is an advantage for them.

“To move forward with the team intact while the others are continuing to organize will have a big impact,” she said.

And Dvorsky said she’s not worried about the RPI’s money advantage, pointing out the IDP’s use of technology such as an iPhone application and its website to get people registered and committed.

“We don’t need to overcome it,” Dvorsky said. “That could not be more typical. They’ve got all these candidates here, it’s completely expected. You don’t try to do that.”

The party also has the benefit of President Obama’s Organizing for America campaign, which she said has been re-energized and has eight offices across the state.

“The president’s campaign has already, again, begun the building of a really robust program,” Dvorsky said. “We are not alone in this. So our partners all across the state, president, congressional, legislative, all of that goes into the office. I’m not worried, we will have the resources we need to succeed.”

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