Bleeding Heartland's coverage of U.S. Senate, House races in 2019

After the wipeout of 2016, I questioned whether Iowa’s top races of 2018 and 2020 would be foregone conclusions for the Republican incumbents. But amid unusually high turnout for a midterm election, Democratic challengers flipped two U.S. House seats and fell only a few points short against Governor Kim Reynolds and Representative Steve King.

One of my goals for 2019 was to provide in-depth reporting on Iowa’s federal and state legislative races. Thanks to our nonpartisan redistricting system, none of our four Congressional districts are considered safe for either party in 2020. While U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is still favored to win a second term, she is increasingly seen as a vulnerable GOP incumbent.

Follow me after the jump for a review of Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the campaigns for U.S. Senate and House, with links to all relevant posts. A separate post will cover the year’s stories about battleground legislative districts.

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IA-Sen: Where things stand in the Democratic primary

Five Democrats are now competing for the chance to take on U.S. Senator Joni Ernst next November. After making low-key appearances at Democratic events around Iowa for about six months, Cal Woods made his candidacy official on December 17.

Assuming all five candidates file nominating petitions in March, the crowded field increases the chance that no one will win the nomination outright in the June 3 primary.

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Iowa reaction to Trump impeachment

For the third time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives impeached a president. Following nearly ten hours of debate, House members voted 230 to 197 (roll call) to impeach President Donald Trump for abusing his power, and by 229 votes to 198 (roll call) to approve the second article, on Trump’s obstruction of Congress. (Read the full text of the articles here.)

As they had indicated in statements the previous day, Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted for both articles of impeachment. None gave a speech during the floor debate. Only two House Democrats voted against the first article, and three voted against the second, while Representative Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” in what she called a “stand for the center.”

No Republicans voted for either article, and Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among many GOP members who thundered against the drive to impeach Trump during the floor debate. I’ve enclosed below the video and transcript of his remarks, along with new statements from Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and comments from some Iowa Congressional candidates. You can read comments released before the House votes here.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the impeachment that she won’t immediately refer the articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate. House leaders hope to influence the Senate to agree to procedures that would allow for a “fair trial.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he is working closely with White House counsel and hopes to dispose of the impeachment articles quickly.

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AP pulls back curtain on coordination between Ernst aides, dark money

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst introduced a potential major donor to one of her campaign’s fundraisers, who later asked that person for a “an investment of $50,000” in a dark money group backing Ernst’s re-election, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press on December 6.

Slodysko’s scoop uncovered what may be illegal coordination between the Ernst campaign and the Iowa Values group, which can accept unlimited contributions without disclosing donors.

It wasn’t the first time Ernst’s campaign ventured into a gray area.

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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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