The perils of outside money

Author’s Note from Strong Island Hawk: “Outside money” typically refers to super-PACs and dark money groups. “Independent expenditure only committees,” more commonly known as super-PACs, have no limits on contributions from individuals but are prohibited from donating to candidates or “coordinating” with them on strategy or messaging. “Dark money” groups are essentially charities organized under 501(c)(4) of the IRS code and are not required to publicly disclose their donors. These “social welfare” groups can spend certain amounts of their annual budget on political activity. See Issue One’s explainer.

Iowa Democrats are once again trying to figure out what went wrong after another election night full of defeats, including a loss for Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield. Greenfield was a weak candidate: she was yet another wealthy Des Moines real estate developer who was a political novice with no compelling message or agenda. And she was neither an electric speaker nor a sharp debater. But Iowans were never really given a choice.

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Where Iowa Democrats go from here: Thoughts for the next party chair

J.D. Scholten was the Democratic nominee in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district in 2018 and 2020. -promoted by Laura Belin

We, Iowa Democrats, have a lot of work to do. The 2020 election was humbling and has been hard to swallow. In 2008, Barack Obama won Cerro Gordo County with 60 percent of the vote. Donald Trump carried it this year with 52 percent. Obama won Carroll County in 2008 with 51 percent, but Trump won overwhelmingly there this year, with 68 percent of the vote. Those are just a couple of examples of what happened across the state.

Is Iowa a red state? Yes, for now, but I am not sold that all is lost for the Democratic Party here. In order to improve our outcomes, we need some changes within the Iowa Democratic Party. It starts with whomever the new chairperson will be.

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Lessons of 2020: Win or lose, Rita Hart was a good fit for IA-02

Fifth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Democrat Rita Hart’s campaign has asked for a recount in all 24 counties of Iowa’s second Congressional district, where Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks led by 196,862 votes to 196,815 (49.92% to 49.90%) after the canvass. It’s the closest U.S. House race in the country, and one of the closest in Iowa history.

The lead has changed twice since election night: first, when fixing a tabulation error in Jasper County put Hart slightly ahead, and then when a correction in Lucas County moved Miller-Meeks back into the lead.

Recounts in Iowa rarely produce big changes in vote totals, so Republicans are confident they will pick up this seat. However, overcoming a deficit of 47 votes out of nearly 400,000 cast is certainly possible in a recount.

Either way, one fact is clear: Hart performed much better than a generic Democrat, perhaps better than any nominee not named Dave Loebsack could have in these circumstances.

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Final look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape, with ratings

Politics watchers from around the country are watching Iowa’s U.S. Senate race today, but arguably the battle for the Iowa House is more important for our state’s future. Democrats need a net gain of four seats for a majority or three seats for a 50-50 chamber that would block the worst excesses of the Republican trifecta.

The 2020 playing field is even larger than usual, in part because Democrats finally have the resources to compete with Republicans in the battleground House districts.

I enclose below a brief final look at each House district, with the latest voter registration figures (as of November 2), absentee ballot totals (as of November 3), campaign spending by both parties, and recent voting history. This post from early October has more background on each campaign, which influenced my ratings.

Democrats have good prospects to win control of the chamber, with many potential targets. If Republicans cling to a majority, it will probably be with only 51 seats.

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Sixteen Iowa Senate races to watch, with ratings

Iowans will elect 25 state senators today. Those races have attracted far less attention than this year’s Iowa House races, because Republicans have a lopsided 32-18 majority in the upper chamber and only a 53-47 advantage in the House.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep an eye on the Senate races, because this year’s outcome will influence Democratic prospects under the new map coming in 2021.

This overview covers five districts where both parties are spending six-figure amounts, seven districts where Republicans spent a significant amount, and four more districts where the results could shed light on political trends in various parts of the state, even though neither Democrats nor Republicans targeted the race.

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