For the next week and a half, Iowa is back in the center of the political universe, as is only right. But will we be after that?
The presidential campaigns are barnstorming through Iowa over the next 10 days. Tim Kaine speaks today in Cedar Rapids. Jennifer Jacobs reported that Mike Pence will tour the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, while Donald Trump has promised to attend Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride the following Saturday.
That’s a particularly big push for the Hawkeye State’s six electoral votes from the Republican nominee. Part of it might be a little bit of appreciation for Iowa Republican leaders’ willingness to support Trump so strongly, unlike the top GOP electeds from many other states. Though Ernst preemptively declined any vice presidential offer, Trump seems to have taken a liking to the freshman Iowa Senator – his appearance at her new annual fundraiser is another major boost to her profile.
The question will be how that impacts the state polling in Iowa in the weeks immediately afterward. Trump and Pence’s visits will surely dominate the Iowa press, and the friendly and fun locations should help keep the message coming out of their events positive for once. If that results in even a minor bump in the polls in Iowa for Trump, it will present some interesting choices for both campaigns in the first few days of September.
Iowa early voting begins 40 days out from the election in late September. That moves up a lot of strategic decisions for how the campaigns fit Iowa into their overall electoral vote strategy. If you’re polling poorly in the state as people are starting to vote, you have that much less ability to make a comeback, compared to say, Pennsylvania, which has no early voting.
From the current electoral map predictions, Iowa is becoming a particularly difficult state for the Clinton campaign. North Carolina currently looks like a better bet for the Democrats, while Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado seem increasingly solid. Clinton can easily get to 270 electoral college votes by maintaining her leads in those four places, all of which contain more favorable and diverse demographics that oppose Trump.
Iowa, on the other hand, has seen Trump leading or nearly tied in most recent polling. The Real Clear Politics average has Clinton only up 0.4% from the last five polls.
The Clinton campaign already has a robust effort in Iowa with a large coordinated campaign operation with 24 field offices and well over 100 total Democratic Party staff at this point. And Iowa is the perfect place for a strong field effort to rack up absentee ballot numbers to lift a candidate a few percentage points over their current polling.
But if Trump continues to look like he’s doing well in Iowa after his and Pence’s high-profile swings this week and next, how much additional resources from the national campaign will be directed here? The party’s internal numbers and absentee request totals may help boost their confidence, but public polls could cause problems with the media’s perception of Iowa’s role in the race.
Trump’s campaign is certain to continue to push hard for Iowa, in desperate need of swing states they can actually win. And their strong connections to the Republican establishment here makes organizing on the ground much easier.
There’s still over 80 days left until Election Day, with a whole lot of campaigning left to do from the candidates and their local staff. But we might get a good idea of how the campaign strategies and end result will look like after the next two weeks.
by Pat Rynard