Lessons of 2018: Changing trends in Iowa's largest counties

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

Last week, Bleeding Heartland examined votes for governor in counties containing Iowa’s mid-sized cities, which collectively accounted for roughly 15 percent of Iowans who participated in this year’s election.

Today’s focus is ten counties where more than half of this year’s Iowa voters live. Whereas Fred Hubbell underperformed in all seventeen “micropolitan” areas, the results in larger counties were a mixed bag for the Democratic nominee.

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A pre-election economic update

Dave Swenson is an associate scientist in Iowa State University’s Department of Economics. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Elections inspire economic promises. Whether those promises are realistic or not usually doesn’t matter. It is the economic narrative that matters, and if you hit the right chord, as the Bill Clinton campaign found with “it’s the economy, stupid,” you can milk that for all it is worth to swing an election in your favor.

The GOP retook the Iowa governorship in 2011, and there was a range of economic promises and expectations. Chief among them was the time-worn assumption that Republicans knew how to generate economic prosperity. Jobs were going to be created, household incomes were going to rise, and the state’s economic prospects were going to be righted after four years of mismanagement.

For a time things looked promising. Robust farm profits were driving strong demand for machinery and other capital investments on the farm, which supported both Main Street and manufacturing recovery. Iowa’s already strong wind energy industry continued to expand. There were huge fertilizer plants under construction on both sides of the state. Iowa had become a popular place to site data centers. A dime was added to the gas tax to boost road construction. And a controversial pipeline bisecting the state diagonally requiring hundreds of workers was laid in the ground.

So Iowa’s economy is doing great, right? Wrong. Here are just a few key indicators:

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Think Iowa's economy is improving? One key federal measure says no

Tax and budget policy expert Randy Bauer explains that although personal income has been rising across the country in recent years, Iowa is not doing as well in comparison to other states. -promoted by desmoinedem

How is Iowa doing, economy-wise, in comparison to other states? There are a variety of statistics and competing claims. I would argue that one key measure, which the federal government uses to figure out Iowa’s federal share of a very important program, suggests that Iowa is not doing as well in comparison to other states.

In fact, using this measure, Iowa has been falling behind for the last four years.

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Andrew Yang explains the "Freedom Dividend" and how Democrats could sell it

Rarely does a presidential candidate focus a stump speech on an out-of-the box idea. But in his first appearance before a large Iowa audience on August 10, Andrew Yang devoted much of his time to the “Freedom Dividend,” a proposal unlike anything I’ve heard on the caucus trail.

After the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Yang spoke to Bleeding Heartland about how the U.S. could pay for a nationwide universal basic income plan. He also explained how he envisions selling the idea to voters who have heard politicians denigrate “hand-outs” and welfare for decades.

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