Woeful results from Bleeding Heartland's 2018 Iowa primary prediction contest

The results are in for our Iowa primary election prediction contest. Since the first time we played this kind of game in 2008, the Bleeding Heartland community has never done so poorly trying to guess how Iowans would vote.

The errors began when I forgot to include a question about the Republican primary in the fourth Congressional district. Cyndi Hanson raised little money and has rarely been in the news since her unsuccessful challenge to Steve King’s nominating papers. She received about 25 percent of the vote, which surprised me. State Senator Rick Bertrand ran a much more active campaign against King in 2016 and only received about 35 percent in the GOP primary.

On to the results from the ten questions that were part of this year’s contest. You can view all the entries in this comment thread.

1. How many Iowa Democrats will cast ballots in the gubernatorial primary?

Answer: 176,700, according to unofficial results on the Secretary of State’s website.

Most of us correctly predicted that Democratic primary turnout would set a new record, but most of our guesses were not far above 150,000. The winner on this question is Bleeding Heartland user MikeTram01, who guessed 180,000. (We don’t play “Price is Right” rules–there is no penalty for going over.) Second goes to Prized Liberty (182,000). In third place: JoshHughesIA (167,478).

CORRECTION: 200,305 Iowans cast ballots in the 1990 Democratic primary. So this year didn’t set a record after all.

2. What percentage of the vote will each of the six Democratic candidates for governor receive in the primary?

Answer: Fred Hubbell 55.53 percent, Cathy Glasson 20.46 percent, John Norris 11.44 percent, Andy McGuire 5.24 percent, Nate Boulton 5.07 percent, Ross Wilburn 2.16 percent.

I try not to look closely at other people’s entries before finalizing my own predictions; mostly I skim posted comments to see if they answered all the questions. So when I guessed Hubbell would win 45 percent of the primary vote, I thought I was lowballing it. I considered going into the high 40s (though not above 50 percent). After posting my predictions, I was shocked to see I had the highest number for Hubbell so far. A lot of people had the front-runner finishing in the 30s, and some thought he wouldn’t even clear the 35 percent threshold to win the primary outright.

I suspect a combination of wishful thinking and the Des Moines Register’s poll (which put Hubbell at 31 percent three weeks before the primary) led Bleeding Heartland readers to underestimate the front-runner. Selzer’s sample was presumably not representative of the primary electorate in some way, because it’s unlikely Hubbell could have gained so much ground in so little time. When the Register poll came out, his internal polling was rumored to have him much further ahead of the field.

Before the contest window closed, David Osterberg predicted that Hubbell would gain 48 percent. He was close to the mark on Glasson (21) and Norris (14), but had Boulton a little ahead of McGuire. Meanwhile, Bleeding Heartland user gellerbach was slightly further from Hubbell’s total (47 percent) but nailed Glasson’s showing (20 percent) and anticipated that McGuire would finish a shade ahead of Boulton. I’m calling this question a tie between Osterberg and gellerbach.

I had the third-closest guess on Hubbell’s vote share, but I got the order wrong on Glasson/Norris and McGuire/Boulton.

3. What percentage of the vote will Abby Finkenauer, Thomas Heckroth, George Ramsey III, and Courtney Rowe receive in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s first Congressional district?

Answer: Finkenauer 66.90 percent, Heckroth 19.18 percent, Rowe 7.52 percent, Ramsey 6.31 percent.

Most of us correctly predicted the nominee here but didn’t anticipate the scale of Finkenauer’s victory, putting her percentage in the 40s or low 50s.

JoshHughesIA picked the winner to take 65 percent, although he had Ramsey finishing a little ahead of Rowe. JohnGrieder had Finkenauer at 63 percent and also had Ramsey ahead of Rowe. In third place: Bleeding Heartland user Liberal was the only person to go too high on Finkenauer (77) but was right on the dot for Heckroth (19).

4. What percentage of the vote will Christopher Peters and Ginny Caligiuri receive in the Republican primary to represent Iowa’s second Congressional district?

Answer: Peters 87.55 percent, write-in 12.45 percent

Most of us overestimated what Caligiuri’s network of social conservative supporters could deliver for a write-in candidate. JohnGrieder was closest: Peters 89 percent, Caligiuri 11, followed by zeitgeist and JoshHughesIA, who both had Peters winning by a 90-10 margin.

5. What percentage of the vote will Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro receive in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s third Congressional district?

Answer: Axne 57.91 percent, Mauro 26.33 percent, D’Alessandro 15.52 percent

As with IA-01, most of us guessed the right winner but had no clue about her margin of victory; many entries had Axne finishing in the 30s or low 40s. The Des Moines Register poll showing Axne and Mauro virtually tied at 26 and 27 percent three weeks before the election probably played a role here.

Bleeding Heartland user Liberal is the winner on this question for guessing Axne 45 percent, Mauro 38 percent, D’Alessandro 17 percent. MikeTram01 also had Axne at 45 percent but thought the other two candidates would finish much closer to one another (Mauro 30, D’Alessandro 25). David Osterberg had Axne at 44, Mauro 38, D’Alessandro 18.

6. What percentage of the vote will Leann Jacobsen, John Paschen, and J.D. Scholten receive in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district?

Answer: Scholten 51.21 percent, Jacobsen 31.92 percent, Paschen 16.77 percent

As a group, we did better on this question. Everyone had Scholten winning the primary. Some guessed too high, others too low. David Osterberg had the best guess: Scholten 50 percent, Jacobsen and Paschen tied at 25 percent. MikeTram01 also had Scholten at 50 but switched the finishing order of the other two candidates. I had Scholten at 48, Jacobsen 32 percent, Paschen 20.

7. What percentage of the vote will Deidre DeJear and Jim Mowrer receive in the Democratic primary for secretary of state?

Answer: DeJear 51.07 percent, Mowrer 48.75 percent

The only Democratic election that wasn’t decided soon after polls closed was a bit of an upset, as a first-time candidate defeated a two-time nominee for Congress who went into the campaign much better known. Most Bleeding Heartland contestants predicted the nominee correctly. Prized Liberty and David Osterberg both nailed the margin: DeJear 51, Mowrer 49. JoshHughesIA had Dejear at 52, Mowrer 48.

8. Who will be the highest vote-getter in the Republican primary for secretary of agriculture, and what percentage of the vote will that candidate receive?

These five candidates will appear on the GOP primary ballot: Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels, Craig Lang, Mike Naig, Dan Zumbach. According to a poll The Iowa Republican blog commissioned in mid-May, more than two-thirds of respondents didn’t know enough about any of the candidates to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them.

Answer: Naig finished well ahead of the rest of the field with 34.74 percent

Only five contestants correctly predicted the current secretary of agriculture would win a plurality. The winner on this question is MikeTram01, who guessed Naig’s vote share at 33 percent, followed by Prized Liberty (32), Alex Sekora and nedem (both said 25), and Liberal (44).

9. What percentage of the vote will Ed Malloy and Mary Stewart receive in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa Senate district 41?

Answer: Stewart 58.31 percent, Malloy 41.55 percent

As a group, we did poorly on this question. All but four guessed Malloy would win the primary. I had the best guess (a 54-46 margin for Stewart), followed by MikeTram01 and rockm (who both predicted 52-48) and JoshHughesIA (51-49).

10. What percentage of the vote will John Mauro and Matt McCoy receive in the Democratic primary for Polk County Supervisor District 5?

Answer: McCoy 68.87 percent, Mauro 30.97 percent

Quite a few anticipated the longtime state senator would defeat the longtime incumbent supervisor, but most expected a close race. No one saw the McCoy blowout coming. Prized Liberty and Liberal tied for the best guess: 56 percent for McCoy, 44 percent for Mauro. In third place, David Osterberg had McCoy winning 54-46.

Final tally: Josh Hughes–I-35 school board Vice President, occasional guest author, and a “rising star” honoree at the upcoming Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event–must relinquish his title as Bleeding Heartland primary election prediction contest champion to the 1998 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. David Osterberg made the most accurate prediction on three questions this year and posted the third-best guess on two more. Today’s runner-up is MikeTram01, who placed first on two questions and second on three others.

About the Author(s)


  • Congratulations to Winner David Osterberg...

    …and side thanks to him for his many and ongoing years of hard work to make Iowa a better place.