EDITOR NOTE: Last week I made the following comment on Bleeding Heartland’s web site on a post titled Iowa’s No Bellwether Anymore — And Neither Is Cedar County.
I’ve heard the framing “bellwether Iowa” before and believe it is buncombe (H.L. Mencken spelling). To me the discussion should be about swing voters.
Here are my initial reactions:
The size of Trump’s win in Cedar County doesn’t matter to the operative condition of swing voting which is the culture of the electorate. The mathematical framework here seems arbitrary. As I’ve argued with prominent Democrats in Cedar County, mathematical analysis isn’t how one understands the electorate at the county level.
History matters less than the candidate or slate of candidates up for election. It is predictable that based on population, ethnicity and factors you mentioned, with the high number of no preference voters (4,586) compared to Democrats (3,173) and Republicans (3,902) Trump would do well. Many in the Clinton bubble, including me, underestimated how much people dislike Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Republican party strategy was hammer Clinton repeatedly then do it again and it worked to persuade swing voters to vote Trump in big numbers.
Cedar County voters were willing to split the ticket in 2012. To answer the bellwether question one has to understand whether they will swing back given a different set of candidates. I believe they will.
The elephant in the room is the Kaufmann family. Since Jeff ran successfully for Cedar County supervisor, and Bobby ran for state house, and their family has deep, multi-generational roots in the county, their influence is everywhere. The fact that Jeff Kaufmann was Republican Party chair this cycle mattered a lot to Trump’s high margin. Beginning with the caucuses he was able to activate voters for events in a way I believe gave Republicans a clear advantage in preparing for the general.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Cedar County, although I virtually lived there most of July – October of 2012. As long as the Kaufmanns sustain their hegemony it won’t be anything like a bellwether.
~ Written for Bleeding Heartland