IA-Sen: Warning signs for Joni Ernst

Iowans haven’t voted out a sitting U.S. senator since 1984, but several recent events have caused political observers to question Senator Joni Ernst’s strengths going into her first re-election bid.

Inside Elections changed its rating on Iowa’s 2020 U.S. Senate race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” this month. (Sabato’s Crystal Ball already rated the IA-Sen race “lean R,” while the Cook Political Report still sees a GOP hold likely.) Writing at the National Journal on October 20, Josh Kraushaar cited several “major red flags suggesting Iowa is a much bigger battleground than Republicans anticipated at the beginning of the year.”

Ernst told supporters at a closed-door fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence this month that she is the fifth most-vulnerable senator, according to Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News.

What’s going on?

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Iowa Senate district 28 preview: Michael Breitbach vs. Matt Tapscott

A few words about the title: Republican State Senator Michael Breitbach has told some constituents and people connected to the legislature he does not plan to seek a third term in 2020. So Matt Tapscott may end up running for an open Iowa Senate seat.

In response to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry, Breitbach commented via e-mail on October 14, “There is plenty of time for me to make my decision whether to run again in 2020. I was very happy with the support I received in my last election and I feel I have been successful during my time in the Senate.”

Having covered the Iowa legislature for more than a decade, I’ve learned to be skeptical about retirement rumors. Party leaders have a way of talking reluctant incumbents into seeking re-election. Breitbach has good committee assignments; not only does he chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, he also serves on the Commerce and Transportation panels.

So until Breitbach publicly announces he’s done, I assume he will be on the ballot next November in one of eighteen Iowa Senate districts where voters favored President Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.*

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IA-03: Highlights from 3Q campaign filings by Cindy Axne, David Young

The 2018 campaign for Iowa’s third Congressional district was the most expensive U.S. House race in our state’s history. Then-Representative David Young spent more than $2.8 million, his Democratic challenger Cindy Axne spent more than $5.1 million, and outside groups kicked in nearly $9 million to influence the outcome.

The latest Federal Election Commission filings show Axne and Young are both raising plenty for what should be a highly competitive (and expensive) rematch.

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IA-02 voters likely to elect a woman in 2020

Before this year, no woman had ever represented Iowa in the U.S. House. But after the 2020 general election, women may represent three out of the state’s four Congressional districts.

U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer’s likely Republican challenger in IA-01 is State Representative Ashley Hinson. Representative Cindy Axne has at least even odds to win a second term against presumptive Republican nominee David Young. And the latest campaign finance reports point to a general election match-up between State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former State Senator Rita Hart in the second district.

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