As U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, officially endorsed Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s nominee for President last week, he joined the rest of the Iowa Republican Party who have made that step to say publicly that they stand with Trump. Since that time, King’s opponent Kim Weaver joined the other Democratic candidates, such as Patty Judge who is challenging U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, in tying the Republicans to every controversial statement that Trump makes on the campaign trail.
In a recent press release, Weaver said, “Yesterday my opponent endorsed bigotry, misogyny, intolerance and the politics of us versus them. I don’t think there’s a person alive who thought Steve King was going to join the Republicans who have put country before party by rejecting Donald Trump’s campaign of intolerance, division, policy ignorance and empty rhetoric. Why would he? After all, in many ways Trump is reading directly from the Steve King playbook. In fact, Congressman King thanked Trump for ‘borrowing’ his immigration policy. They’re two peas in a bigoted pod.”
This is a strategy that is taking place in races all over the country, and with Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in national polls by about 20 percentage points, it seems to be one that could be effective in November. However, in Iowa, Trump and Clinton are nearly tied as some polls show Clinton leading by as few as four points and one poll out of Suffolk University even had Trump leading by one. This leads people to question if the strategy will work in a state that Trump seems to be at least in contention for winning in November.
Jan Bauer, chairwoman of the Story County Democratic Party, said she doesn’t know if it actually helps the Democrats but she does believe that it’s worth mentioning to voters so they know exactly what they’re voting for.
“The Trump movement, if we’re going to call it that, is dangerous. And I want people to wake up and realize what their local representatives are endorsing and standing by,” Bauer said.
Bauer said she believes that the endorsement that a candidate makes should be a clear indication of what they stand for and the Democrats need to show equally that they oppose that stance.
“It is just important that they draw contrast between what their opponents are saying where they stand on their issues and beliefs,” Bauer said.
Brett Barker, chair of the Story County Republican Party, said he didn’t believe that the tactic would hurt the GOP candidates come November because no matter what the endorsements say, voters know the candidates for what they’ve done in Iowa.
“I don’t think so. I think Iowans know who Steve King is, they know who Chuck Grassley is and I think that they’re going to be quite able to stand on their own merits for the election,” Barker said.
Barker said he has seen this strategy on both sides of the aisle, and in an election year where both candidates are struggling to boost their images, it seems unlikely that the approach will gain much traction.
“You’re seeing that the current office holders on both sides of the aisle, their favorability ratings in a lot of cases are higher than both the presidential candidates, so I think that plays into the dynamic. A lot of people tend to know or like their own representative,” Barker said. “People say they don’t like Congress but most incumbents end up winning because people like their representative.”
Dennis Goldford, professor of political science at Drake University, said he’s not sure if the strategy of tying Trump’s comments to down ticket candidates would by itself be effective. But he said Trump’s comments could still affect those races because of voters who use straight ticket voting.
“People in recent years have tended less and less to vote split ticket,” Goldford said. “Republicans are hoping that people will vote split ticket. That is, at least not vote for Trump for president, but still come back and vote for their lower level congressional candidates.”
Barker said he is among that portion of the party who believes voters will split tickets because he has heard a lot people talking about it in this election for the first time.
“I think we’re seeing more of, at least (more) than I’ve seen in my lifetime, is more people talking about splitting tickets. Voting for certain candidates down ballot, other candidates up ballot just because of the dynamics of this race. So I actually think we may see the reverse, we might see more people split tickets and less people do straight ticket voting then we’ve seen in the past,” Barker said.
According to Bauer, even if the endorsements coming from local Republicans for the Trump campaign don’t change the minds of people who may vote for those down ballot GOP candidates, it still is having a big affect on the Democratic base in Story County.
“It’s energizing them,” Bauer said.