A record number of Iowans voted in the 2012 election and a record number of those votes were cast early, some more than a month before election day. Vdoor in many neighborhoods.
In 2012, over 400,000 “early” votes were cast for Barack Obama compared to Mitt Romney’s tally of not quite 270,000 in ballots cast before election day. After losing the battle to bank “early” votes for several elections in Iowa, Republicans have vowed to up their game and last Friday launched what Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann called the Iowa GOP’s “weekend of action.”
“And that is the starting gun for the Republicans,” Kaufmann said during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television. “…I’m choosing my words carefully here, but what you will find in these next two months is a record amount of resources and organization and volunteers.”
Trent Wright, a small businessman from Sioux City, was out on Saturday and Sunday, making face-to-face contact with potential Republican voters.
“Although I retired from the Air Force, I think the volunteerism that I’m doing now has way bigger impact on the direction of the country,” Wright said during an interview with Radio Iowa Sunday afternoon. “I mean if I turn out a handful of votes for the Senate campaign and it changes the face of the Senate, well that could change the face of the Supreme Court for a long time and that’s a big impact on the country.”
On the opposite side of the state, Caroline Koppes — a retired school teacher — was going door to door in her hometown of Dubuque for the Democratic Party this weekend.
“Voting is how people feel empowered,” Koppes said during an interview with Radio Iowa on Sunday afternoon, “…I think canvasing is the easier way to get people to recognize that their vote does make a difference.”
Koppes began doing this kind of shoe-leather work in 2009.
“I started actually when my son signed up to go the military, I thought: ‘I just will be thinking about this day and night,’ and I started with the Obama campaign right after I retired from teaching,” Koppes said.
Wright began going door-to-door, talking with potential Republican voters in western Iowa, back in 2012 and he’s learned when to talk and when to listen.
“Most of them that answer the door are pretty anxious to speak about the issues,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of people that are frustrated, mad, scared about government and a lot of the people that I talk to are anxious to vent, I guess.”
Koppes said the kind of in-person, give-and-take she’s having with people in the Dubuque area can be more effective than attack ads, mailings and robo-calls.
“I just want to bring civility because I just think that the only way we’re going to really do the things we can do for systemic change,” Koppes said.
During a joint appearance with Kaufmann on Iowa Public Television this weekend, Iowa Democratic Party chairman Scott Brennan scoffs at the Iowa GOP’s opening weekend goal of knocking on 30,000 doors in Iowa. Democrats started their door-to-door effort in June.
“We have hundreds, thousands of volunteers, folks who’ve been out knocking doors, making phone calls,” Brenann said on IPTV. “That’s an advantage that we will retain through Election Day. That’ll help drive turn-out and we’ll be just fine.”
The Iowa Democratic Party and the Obama campaign were able to register 30,000 more Democratic voters in the final two months of the 2012 campaign due to door-to-door canvasing, but U.S. voter turn-out in midterm elections — when no presidential candidate is on the ballot — have been on the decline since the 1840s. Nearly 70 percent of eligible Iowa voters participated in the 2012 presidential election. Turnout in Iowa during the last midterm election, in 2010, was 54 percent.