warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Cedar County A Focus To Predict Who Will Get Iowa's Electoral Votes

Xueqiao Ma, Law Murray |
November 6, 2012 | 4:05 p.m. PST

Looking for a barometer county in the 2012 presidential election?  Look no further than Cedar County, Iowa.

Cedar County is a small county located in southeastern Iowa, with a population of about 18,499 people.

In 2008, Barack Obama carried Iowa, receiving 54 percent of the vote in the state.  Obama received 54 percent of the Cedar County vote.

In 2004, George W. Bush edged John Kerry to carry Iowa 49.9 percent to 49.2 percent.  In Cedar County, Bush received 50.3 percent to Kerry's 49.0 percent.

And in 2000, Al Gore would carry Iowa with 48.2 percent of the vote over George W. Bush's 48.2 percent.  Cedar County in 2000? Dead even at 48.3 percent, with Gore getting exactly two more votes than Bush.

The little county became a symbol of the split that had gripped the country. But when the tie was finally broken and Gore won by two votes, it affirmed its flawless record in picking the Iowa presidential winner, according to the Quad-City Times.

"I think Cedar County feels important," says John Kaufmann, the son of Republican Iowa state representative Jeff Kaufmann, who represents Cedar.  "Because it is so even, there is more competition and energy.  And more of a feeling of efficacy."

That energy is reflected among the campaign leaders and those who have been passionate for their party in Cedar County.  Clara Oleson, who unsuccessfully challenged Jeff Kauffmann as a Democrat in 2006 for Kaufmann's spot in the Iowa House of Representatives, has described Cedar County as a battleground county in a rural state.

"This is not an issue campaign like 2008, this is a 'get out and vote' campaign," said Oleson, who also worked in 2008 in Cedar County on the Obama campaign team.  "The Republicans are using money, full-page ads, and TV money.  We have the strength of numbers.  We are using real people for volunteers.  People are working from 7:30 to 9:30 out in Tipton and West Branch."

Callie Valet, a registered nurse from Tipton, hosted a Tipton women for Obama event in 2008.  This year, she says she is still voting for Obama, but the atmosphere in Cedar County isn't quite the same as it was four years ago.

"I've noticed more Mitt Romney signs.  I think everyone was more energized in 2008," Valet said.  "I'd say [Cedar County] is 50-50 still, but probably leaning towards Obama."

Asked why she was still supporting Obama, Valet said that Obama still represents her views on education reform, health care, and equal rights.

"I still believe he has more work to do, and more work that he wants to do."

John Kaufmann, the president of the Muscatine Community College Republicans, said that he has noticed some effort by the Romney team in Cedar County.  But he feels that the Romney campaign has spent more time in the urban parts of Iowa.

"I have to be frank, there has been more of an effort from the Obama campaign.  The Obama team has a stronger effort here," said Kaufmann.

Oleson backs up the Obama effort in Iowa, and she feels that the state will reciprocate his effort.

"Obama has a particular relationship with Iowa," Oleson said.  "Iowa has demonstrated that they will support a black president."

Willard Salemink of West Branch already voted in the 2012 election.  He was a big supporter of Ron Paul prior to the Iowa Republican Caucus, but he is less than enthusiastic about the state of affairs in Cedar County since Paul wasn't on the ballot.

"I voted Republican, straight ticket," said Salemink, who is retired.  "Anything to get that Obama bastard out of office.  There are a lot of moron Obama voters around here.  I'm not terribly high on either candidate.  I'm upset that no one is addressing the out-of-control federal spending.  I'd vote for Ron Paul in a minute if he was running, though."

Cedar County, Iowa on Election Day seems like any other county.  Bethany, a voter from Tipton, described her experience:

"I went to a local court house and voted in my area … I'm not going to tell you which party I voted for, but I can tell I voted differently than four years ago."

Speaking to Kaufmann today, he feels that the voter turnout is at least as high as it was in 2008, but that won't say much until tomorrow morning.

"It's not like we're getting our own CNN exit poll here," said Kaufmann.


Reach the reporters here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.