Must-Watch Counties: Dubuque, Polk

by Robert Costa

Des Moines, Iowa – For Rick Santorum to win, he’ll have to do well in a few key regions. Below are two areas on Charles Mahtesian’s list of must-watch counties:

Dubuque County

This was Romney country in 2008, a place where he ran strong (41 percent) and Huckabee ran poorly (15 percent) — it was the only county in the state where the Arkansas governor failed to finish either first or second. But northeastern Iowa is the most heavily Roman Catholic part of the state, and the city of Dubuque is also home to a large concentration of Catholics who might find the candidacies of Rick Santorum and converted Catholic Newt Gingrich appealing. Still, if Romney’s not winning here, he’s probably in trouble.

Polk County

Polk County is Iowa’s most populous by a wide margin and its size alone makes it a critical battleground—the last four GOP caucus winners have all carried it. Home to Des Moines and the state capitol, candidates tend to make more appearances here than anywhere else in the state. There’s good reason for that approach: Polk cast more votes in the 2008 GOP caucuses than any other county and had the second highest turnout. With roughly a fifth of all ballots cast there, the outcome closely mirrored the statewide results.

Santorum advisers tell NRO that they’ll be competitive in Polk County and strong in western Iowa.

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