Democratic declines in key counties: A turnout or persuasion problem?

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

One of the hottest debates in Democratic activist circles relates to strategy for winning statewide and national elections. Does the party need to fix a base turnout problem by nominating contenders who will inspire passionate support among progressives? Or is the more urgent task appealing to voters who used to back Democrats, but lately have favored Republican candidates?

This post doesn’t claim to settle that argument, but searches for clues in the results and turnout rates from key Iowa counties where Fred Hubbell underperformed in his bid to unseat Governor Kim Reynolds.

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Lessons of 2018: Three keys to Abby Finkenauer's win in IA-01

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

Abby Finkenauer’s triumph over two-term U.S. Representative Rod Blum in the first Congressional district was one of this year’s most satisfying wins for Iowa Democrats.

The outcome wasn’t unexpected; leading forecasters saw IA-01 as a “lean Democratic” district for two months. Even so, the pick-up was hardly a given. Iowans tend to re-elect incumbents. Some of the 20 counties in IA-01 experienced the state’s biggest swings toward Republicans in 2016, and Blum ran about 5 points better than Donald Trump did in his district. Last month, Blum and his allies had claimed the incumbent was gaining on Finkenauer in internal polling.

But Blum’s campaign strategy–an aggressive mix of race-baiting television commercials, taxpayer-funded mailings that resembled electioneering, and Trump-like petty shots at journalists–couldn’t deliver the goods. Finkenauer received 170,342 votes to 153,442 for the incumbent (51.0 percent to 45.9 percent), according to official results.

Let’s take a closer look at how the second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress (after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York) assembled that margin of victory.

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IA-Gov post-mortem: One mistake and two missed opportunities

Nate Williams is a labor attorney and served in the Iowa House from 2009 through 2012. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I am not sure whether to think of this as “three mistakes Fred Hubbell’s campaign made” or “one mistake the Hubbell campaign made and two missed opportunities.”

Either way, there are three things I wish the Hubbell campaign would have done very differently.

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Weekend open thread: Incredible 2018 election stories

Hope Bleeding Heartland readers had a happy, meaningful Thanksgiving and will enjoy some time off this weekend. If you have lots of extra food from the holiday meal, here are four ways to make soup from leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, or sweet potatoes, and here’s one way to use up cranberry sauce.

It’s been too long since I put up an open thread. All topics are welcome in the comments section.

I’ve been thinking about the many historic results from this year’s election. In Iowa alone, we saw the first woman elected governor, the first two women elected to the U.S. House, the first Democrat elected state auditor in decades, a record number of women elected to the state legislature, a Democratic sweep of targeted state House seats in the Des Moines suburbs, and at least seven newly-elected lawmakers who had run for office unsuccessfully in 2014 or 2016.

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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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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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