The last statewide “election” for Iowa Democrats was in 2004, when John Kerry won the Iowa Caucuses. What did the three leading Democrats running for governor learn from that night? As you may recall, John Kerry staged a furious rally in the closing days of the campaign — surging ahead of perceived front-runner Howard Dean to finish first. Dean faded to finish in third, behind second-place-finisher John Edwards — another hard-closing candidate.
Patrick Dillon, one of the architects of the John Edwards campaign in Iowa is Chet Culver’s campaign manager and Culver claims to have a Culver supporter in nearly every precinct in Iowa to work for his campaign on the local level. “We learned in that caucus that whoever had the best ground-game on Caucus Day won,” Culver says.
Mike Blouin’s campaign manager is Matt Paul, who worked on the Howard Dean campaign. Blouin says the lesson of John Kerry’s 2004 Caucus triumph is that a candidate can make up a lot of ground in a hurry. “Tom Vilsack’s primary with Mark McCormick showed that,” Blouin says, citing Vilsack’s come-from-behind win in 1998. “Iowans don’t make real strong commitments in a primary unless they really know somebody personally and they’re usually pretty open to movement if you give them reason.”
Candidate Ed Fallon suggests there’s a lesson in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses for those who doubt whether he has a shot at winning. “Polls often don’t show the true sentiment of the electorate,” Fallon says. “Certainly back in 2004 there were a lot of folks who hadn’t made up their mind or some who switched their allegiance and a lot of people who hadn’t been polled because they weren’t expected to go to the Caucuses and I think that’s the case this time around, too.”