Lessons of 2018: Mid-sized cities bigger problem for Democrats than rural areas

Seventh in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

Fred Hubbell’s narrow defeat has generated a new round of conversations about Iowa Democrats struggling outside major metro areas. Although Hubbell received a historically high number of votes for a Democratic candidate for governor and carried Polk County by a larger margin than any previous nominee from his party, he finished 36,600 votes behind Kim Reynolds statewide, according to unofficial results.

Hubbell outpolled Reynolds in only eleven of Iowa’s 99 counties. In contrast, Tom Vilsack carried 48 counties in 1998, when he became the first Democrat elected governor in three decades. He won 68 counties when re-elected in 2002, and Chet Culver nearly matched that result, beating his Republican opponent in 62 counties in 2006.

While many commentators have focused on declining Democratic performance among rural voters, attrition in Iowa’s mid-size cities is a more pressing problem for the party’s candidates at all levels.

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Lessons of 2018: High turnout doesn't only help Democrats

First in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections. Since publication, I have updated numbers with official totals.

Fred Hubbell received more votes than any Democratic nominee for Iowa governor since Harold Hughes was re-elected in the 1964 Democratic landslide. He gained more votes than most of the candidates elected Iowa governor in the past 50 years, including Terry Branstad five of the six times he was on the ballot. Nevertheless, Hubbell lost to Governor Kim Reynolds by about 39,000 votes, according to unofficial returns (UPDATE: The final margin was about 36,000 votes.)

Anecdotal reports of long lines at Iowa polling places on November 6 cheered Hubbell supporters, but the outcome of the governor’s race is a reminder that high turnout doesn’t only help Democrats.

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Rest in peace, Leonard Boswell

Former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell passed away on August 17 at the age of 84. He had long battled a rare cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. Boswell publicly speculated in 2015 that exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War could have caused his abdominal tumors. According to a former staff member, a link to the powerful herbicide was later confirmed. In a recorded message to Iowa Democrats last year, Boswell said his doctors agreed that his disease stemmed from getting “pretty well soaked” while flying a crop-duster mission.

Surviving two tours of duty as an assault helicopter pilot in Vietnam was itself beating the odds. Boswell received numerous honors for his actions in that extremely dangerous role.

Following 20 years of military service, Boswell became a cattle farmer in southern Iowa. First elected to the Iowa Senate in 1984, he served three terms in the legislature, the last as Senate president. He was well-liked in Democratic circles. When I met him briefly during the 1994 campaign (he was the lieutenant governor nominee on a ticket with Bonnie Campbell), he seemed to have a larger-than-life personality.

After winning an open U.S. House seat in 1996, Boswell represented parts of central and southern Iowa in Congress for sixteen years. His proudest legislative accomplishment was sponsoring the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007. Though he belonged to the conservative “Blue Dog” caucus, Boswell voted for the major legislation of President Barack Obama’s first term, including the economic stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act.

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A special message for Nate Boulton supporters

Words of wisdom from Julie Stauch, a veteran of many Democratic campaigns. -promoted by desmoinesdem

To my friends who put your heart into supporting Nate Boulton – this post is for you.

I went to my first caucus in support of Gary Hart in 1984. Then, in 1987, the Monkey Business photo came out and he was out of the presidential race. I can remember the date – May 8. I had been volunteering for him for a little over two months and was rocked by the whole event. My response was – “I’m done. I’m not going to do this again.”

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Weekend thread: Statewide candidate edition

Iowa will soon have its first new secretary of agriculture since 2007. The U.S. Senate confirmed Bill Northey on February 27 as undersecretary for farm production and conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He should have been confirmed months ago; senators on the Agriculture Committee unanimously endorsed his nomination in October. But Senator Ted Cruz of Texas held the nomination over a Renewable Fuel Standard dispute that has nothing to do with Northey’s portfolio.

Once Northey resigns as Iowa secretary of agriculture, Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint his longtime deputy Mike Naig to fill that post for the rest of this year, the governor’s office announced on March 1. I enclose Naig’s official bio below. One of five Republicans who have said they will run for Northey’s job, Naig formally launched his campaign for that office on March 2. At this writing, only Craig Lang has qualified for the primary ballot. Other declared GOP candidates are Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels, and Dan Zumbach. UPDATE: Northey posted on Twitter March 6, “I heartily endorse Mike Naig as our next Iowa Ag Secy. Mike has been a great partner as my Deputy Secy of ag for 4+ yrs. Mike is ready to lead. Let’s elect Mike in June & Nov!”

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"Make America America again": photos, highlights from Iowa Democrats' fall gala

Everyone could have guessed Alec Baldwin would get Iowa Democrats laughing with jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense.

But who would have predicted the serious part of the actor’s speech would evoke an even stronger response from the crowd?

Follow me after the jump for audio and highlights from Baldwin’s remarks and those of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, along with Stefanie Running‘s photographs from a memorable evening in Des Moines.

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