August 30, 2014

Iowa’s top election official says GOP has “momentum” (AUDIO)

Secretary of State Michael Mauro discusses voter registration numbers.

Secretary of State Michael Mauro discusses voter registration numbers.

The state’s top election official says the roughly 100,000 voter registration edge Iowa Democrats held in January has nearly been cut in half. 

Secretary of State Michael Mauro says thousands of Iowans who were “no party” or Democratic voters switched to register as Republicans so they could vote in June’s Primary Election. 

“As of July 1, there are just over 55,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. One month prior to that Democrats maintained an advantage of over 100,000,” Mauro said late this morning during a statehouse news conference.  “…These are significant numbers and I don’t intend to suggest otherwise.” 

According to Mauro, a Democrat who is seeking reelection in November, there’s no way to “deny” Iowa Republicans have made huge gains in the voter registration battle.

“These are numbers that show some momentum.  They also, if you put them in the right context, still show that anything can happen,” Mauro said.  “If you take a look at the 2002 election, to try to put it in context, Governor Vilsack was seeking reelection.  Senator Harkin was up for reelection also. The Democrats had a substantial disadvantage — 40,000 vote registration disadvantage — and those two individuals were still able to be reelected.  It talks about the independent-mindedness of the Iowa voters, I guess.”

Vilsack and Harkin are Democrats.

There was a competitive G.O.P. Primary for governor last month.  Four Republicans were competing in the second congressional district primary and seven Republicans were running for the G.O.P.’s nomination in Iowa’s third congressional district. According to the data released today by Mauro, just over 47,000 Iowans switched their voter registration from Democrat or “no party” to Republican and cast ballots in the June Primary.    

“Based on what I’ve seen as an election official, it’s really difficult to draw any definite conclusions about this year’s numbers and how it will impact that elections this fall,” Mauro said.  “But clearly the Primary did have an impact on the political landscape here in the state.”

Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha who is the Minority Leader in the Iowa House, says it clearly looks like a good year for his party.

“Taking it for granted right now would be, could be a fatal mistake, quite frankly,” Paulsen says. “But the truth of the matter is Republicans I think right now are energized enough that they can’t help themselves but get out there and work — and that’s what you’re seeing.” 

Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, issued a written statement. Strawn said the new voter registration numbers are more evidence that Iowans are “rejecting” Democrats like Chet Culver, the first-term Democratic governor who is seeking reelection this year and “embracing Republican candidates.”

Independent or “no party” voters are still the largest voting block in Iowa. There are about 50,000 more independents than Democrats. so that means there are about 100,000 more independents in Iowa today than there are Republicans.

Listen to Mauro’s 12-minute news conference:  GOPgains

(This story was updated at 2:25 p.m.)