The Patchwork Iowa Vote: Where they Won and Why it Matters

Everyone will talk about who won in Iowa, they always do. But the real story out of the state is the sharp divide in the vote – and one that might be expected.

We wrote earlier that the most likely result out of Iowa was going to be a complicated mess with several candidates able to claim a good night. And when the votes were counted, that’s what we had.

But look closer at the numbers using Patchwork Nation’s geographic/demographic breakdowns and you see a clear divide in the vote on the map.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won in the state’s wealthier more urban counties – the wealthy Monied Burbs, exurban Boom Towns and collegiate Campus and Career locales. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won all the other county types including the agricultural Tractor Country, culturally conservative Evangelical Epicenters and aging Emptying Nests.

Somewhere in there you probably have your much-discussed Romney/anti-Romney fight – a battle between moderate pragmatists in more urban areas and conservative voters who want someone to believe in elsewhere. Romney actually did worse with the most culturally conservative counties in Iowa – Tractor Country and the Evangelical Epicenters – than he did in 2008.

This divide isn’t new to Patchwork Nation. We’ve seen it in where candidate contributions come from and sensed it in our conversations with voters in these communities. On to New Hampshire, where the terrain favors Romney in many ways – it’s next door to Massachusetts, he has a home there and the demographics suit his campaign. But the candidates left will be sure to hit him hard there, they started to do that even Tuesday night. And even if Romney wins the question will be margins – it is by enough percentage points?

The terrain after that changes again in South Carolina and Florida. In short, there’s much more to come.

Dante Chinni is the director of Patchwork Nation and author of the book Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the "Real" America