Iowa leaders expect big turnout, party switchers on caucus night
Caucus goers check in at precinct 56, held at the Central Senior Citizen Center, a Democratic caucus site, in Des Moines, Iowa, January 3, 2008.
December 28th, 2011
03:46 PM ET
2 years ago

Iowa leaders expect big turnout, party switchers on caucus night

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – Republican leaders of the largest counties in Iowa tell CNN they expect a stream of party switchers and high, in some cases record, turnout in this year's GOP caucuses.

"We're expecting at least a 30 percent increase (over 2008)," said Linn County Republican Chairman Steve Armstrong. "Attendance has been up at every event we've held this year. Republicans are more engaged." Linn County, which sits in the eastern part of Iowa and includes Cedar Rapids, had the second largest number of caucus goers in 2008.

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The sentiment that this could be a big number year is nearly universal in Iowa's most populous counties. CNN surveyed Republican leaders in the 12 Iowa counties which had the largest turnout in 2008. The state has 99 counties in total, but these 12 brought in more than half of the statewide caucus numbers the last time around.

"We're geared up. I printed 40 percent more ballots than we had people in attendance in 2008," said Rick Halvorsen, GOP chairman in Warren County, which is south of Des Moines. He expects a 30 percent increase in caucus-goers.

So it is around the state. The Republican chairwoman in Scott County in the east says she's looking for a 20 percent bump there. To the north and west, in Sioux County the GOP chairman says they're planning for a 20-25 percent spike.

And in Pottawattamie County, in the southwest corner, "We're going to set records, I'm sure," says Republican Chairman Jeff Jorgensen.

Jorgensen points out another common theme. "It looks like we're going to get a lot of new registrations, a lot of people switching over (from other parties)," he said.

To participate in the Republican caucuses, voters must be registered as Republicans. But, under Iowa law, they can switch party registration the night of the caucus.

This year, Jorgensen and most of the GOP leaders CNN surveyed say they are expected a larger-than-usual number of party switchers. All admit that some party switching is strategic and Democrats may sign up for the Republican caucus in order to support candidates whom they perceive as weak challengers to President Obama.

But most of the county Republican leaders think those will be the minority of party switchers this year.

"There are a lot of people calling who aren't familiar with the process calling and who are asking about how to switch parties," said Jorgensen, "That tells me they are mostly people who truly want to switch and vote Republican."

In the most populous county, Polk County, the party treasurer said phones were ringing off the hooks with calls about switching parties.
In Dallas County, party chairman Mike Elam sees a golden chance. "We feel there are a lot of disgruntled Democrats and independents," he said. Elam is pragmatic, though. "Some of them will switch for the night and others will stay through November. Those ones will be the key."

Of course, all the talk of high turnout and party switchers comes in a supercharged political atmosphere, where Republican activists know that perception can become reality. So is this just hype? The leaders in Iowa's heftiest counties, insist it's not.

"This is real," said Scott County chairwoman Judy Davidson. "People are upset and this is a referendum on what's happening."

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Filed under: 2012 • Iowa
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    "There are a lot of people calling who aren't familiar with the process calling and who are asking about how to switch parties," said Jorgensen, "That tells me they are mostly people who truly want to switch and vote Republican."
    ----------------–
    These folks are letting their minds play tricks on them. Or should I say, they are letting the Republican Party play tricks with their minds?

    December 28, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    That's pure exaggeration that people are switching parties to vote in these caucuses. That being said, Iowa should not be the first state in this process because it is not representative of all of America. I hear Iowa, the first thing that comes to mind is rural, backwoods, country & white. What's the minority percentage in Iowa anyway. 2%?

    December 28, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. v_mag

    The heck of it is, people will read this and not bat an eye, when it should make them scream at the unjustness of our political system. People accept that little Iowa gets to stoke some politico's bandwagon by voting first? New Hampshire gets to register it's preference and thus give momentum to a candidate who might be at the bottom of the list nationally? How is that right? Why are we taking this kind of treatment?

    Add to this the Electoral College, winner-take-all primaries, gerrymandered districts, and of course unlimited political spending by super-pacs, and you have a totally broken, totally unjust system. Why isn't everyone screaming? Why aren't the media questioning this "system"?

    December 28, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. Duke One

    IOWA is IRRELEVANT !! They let Democrats pretend to be Republicans by switching parties to let scary LIBERALtarian Ron Paul on the ballott.

    December 28, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. diridi

    none of the GOP idiots are worth thinking...o.k, Obama2012.

    December 28, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Donkey Party

    If Americans are stupid enough to vote Republican, then never use the phrase "to save the country for our kids and grandkids" again, because all your doing is condemning America to extinction, and your kids and grandkids won't have a country (or planet) left to worry about. Unless you make over 1 million dollars and are greedy (because some millionaires are still generous and have a conscience), there is no valid reason to vote Republican, period.

    December 28, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    These Iowans, they are such teasers? They don't dance with who brung them ... kinda cheap and floozie ... guess it beats waiting out the long, cold winter ...

    December 28, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    "Unless you make over 1 million dollars and are greedy (because some millionaires are still generous and have a conscience), there is no valid reason to vote Republican, period."

    I agree. There are a lot of conscientious millionaires and billionaires who have said they want to pay more in taxes (62%, as a matter of fact). There are many who want us to invest in this country and are doing their best to hire more, innovate more and revitalize our manufacturing base.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to this kind of "will of the people," the GOP and their lackeys ignore them, instead preferring to sell us out to the highest multinational corporation.

    December 28, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. GI Joe

    I'll switch to vote for the loser in Primaries and then switch back to vote dem in the real election. Lots of people do that. How stupid do you think we are? Dems like to pick who the loser will be ha ha ha ha ha

    December 28, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |