DAVENPORT, Iowa – If Mitt Romney is going to carry Iowa this fall, he has to perform well in places like Scott County, the state’s third most populated county. More generally speaking, the Romney campaign needs to do well in a number of counties in eastern Iowa that border the Mississippi River. On Monday, Romney visited two eastern Iowa river towns, Dubuque and Davenport, as part of his “Every Town Counts” bus tour.
Dubuque and Scott Counties are not uncharted terrain for Romney. He not only campaigned there often in 2008 and visited them multiple times during the 2012 caucus campaign, but he won Dubuque, Clinton, Scott, and Muscatine Counties in the 2008 and 2012 caucuses. If he plans to call the White House home next January, he may very well need Iowa’s six electoral votes to do so. That means winning these critical areas of the state is a necessity.
In 2008, John McCain lost to Barak Obama in Iowa by 146,561 votes, which amounted to a ten-point margin of victory. Despite Obama’s comfortable Iowa victory, the margins he built in just seven of the state’s 99 counties constituted 80 percent of the margin between Obama and McCain. While counties like Polk, Johnson, and Linn gave Obama an 86,000-vote cushion, Clinton, Dubuque, Muscatine, and Scott counties added another 31,000 votes to his lead over McCain.
The Romney campaign is hoping that it can follow the success that Governor Branstad and Senator Grassley were able to find in eastern Iowa in the 2010 elections. For the first time years, Republicans out performed Democrats in Scott County, something that George W. Bush wasn’t able to do in 2000 when he lost the state to Al Gore, or when he won the state verses John Kerry in 2004.
If any Republican candidates is well positioned to make the Republican victories in eastern Iowa into a trend instead of a fluke occurrence, it’s Romney. Romney has performed well in the area in the caucuses, and there is no reason to believe that he will not perform well there in the general election. While some of the state’s social conservatives have been slow to warm to Romney, his brand of politics will serve him well in eastern Iowa where fiscal issues carry the most weight with voters.
It was those issues that Romney focused on at his Davenport rally. Romney advocated for an energy policy that includes utilizing all of American’s energy resources – coal, oil, natural gas, wind, solar, and renewables. He cited a news report that indicated American could be an energy producing giant in the next ten years.
Romney also vowed to lift the “dark cloud” that is hovering over small business, which is preventing them from adding workers. That dark cloud, as he described it, is Obamacare. Romney also criticized the President on his new immigration policy that would basically grant amnesty to 800,000 illegal immigrants.
About 500 or so turned out to see Romney along the Mississippi River on one of the hottest days of the year thus far. The crowd was enthusiastic and excited to see the Republican nominee. The LA Times reports that the event was filmed for use in upcoming TV ads. The flag-waving crowd with the iconic Centennial Bridge in the background will make for incredible visuals, but filming a local ad for use in eastern Iowa and western Illinois is very smart politics. For Romney to do well here, he needs to have local appeal. Every one who sees the bridge in the background will know that it was filmed in Iowa.
Romney’s visit to eastern Iowa was also important for two local candidates, Ben Lange who is running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, and John Archer, the Republican nominee in the 2nd District. Archer was able to address the crowd, but more importantly, he and Lange need Romney to run strong in the their congressional district.
Likewise, the Romney campaign will benefit from Lange and Archer running strong campaigns this fall against Congressman Bruce Braley and Congressman Dave Loebsack. After redistricting, the incumbency advantages are always somewhat diminished, which means that this may be the year that a Republican can unseat a Democrat incumbent congressman.
For that to happen, Romney, who is the only statewide Republican on the ballot this fall, needs to run strong. If his recent itinerary, which has included three trips to Iowa since mid-May is any indication, Mitt Romney is taking Iowa very seriously.