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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How Iowa's 2018 Congressional hopefuls did compared to Clinton, Trump

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

David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, planted the seed for this post when he observed last month,

Iowans Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03) delivered two of those newly-Democratic House seats. I wondered: how did they and their opponents perform compared to their party’s last presidential nominee?

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Iowa and national 2018 election results thread

Polls just closed in Iowa, and I will update this thread frequently throughout the night as results come in. Separate posts on some of the statewide and Congressional races will be forthcoming once the outcome is clear. The Secretary of State’s website is compiling vote totals here. Anecdotal evidence suggests turnout far exceeded 2014 levels on election day.

Early voting already set a record for an Iowa midterm election. This post includes tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts from October 9 through November 6. The numbers aren’t quite final; absentee ballots can be hand-delivered to county auditors today, and ballots arriving by mail later this week can be counted with a postmark dated November 5 or earlier.

What we know: at least 538,043 Iowans voted before election day this year. The total early vote in 2014 was 465,166. Iowa Democrats cast 186,269 early ballots in 2014. As of this morning, 230,294 Democrats had already voted. Republicans cast 178,653 early ballots in 2014 and were at 189,961 this morning. Turnout among no-party Iowa voters typically drops sharply in non-presidential years. Four years ago, 99,491 independents cast ballots; the comparable number today is 114,878.

Earlier today, I reviewed the nine Iowa Senate races most likely to be competitive and 20 Iowa House races that will likely decide control of the lower chamber.

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Iowa Congressional 3Q fundraising: Democrats blow the doors off

Here’s one for your “things that never happened before 2018” file: every Iowa Democratic nominee for the U.S. House raised more than their Republican opponents did during the third quarter of the election year. Three of the Democrats entered the final stage of the campaign with more cash on hand.

Democratic challengers Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) far exceeded previous record hauls for non-incumbent Congressional candidates from Iowa. Like J.D. Scholten (IA-04), they raised several times more money during this reporting period than did the Republican incumbents they face.

The unprecedented fundraising for Iowa candidates is in line with national trends. Democratic campaigns account for about 65 percent of total fundraising for U.S. House races this cycle. According to National Journal staff, 91 Democratic challengers out-raised GOP members of Congress in their districts. In addition, every Democrat in the 28 House districts CNN considers toss-ups (a list including IA-03) raised more than the Republican during the third quarter.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from the latest Federal Election Commission reports, which were due on October 15.

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IA-02: Dave Loebsack should spend less on tv, more to elect Iowa Democrats

Six-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack will spend more than a million dollars over the next seven weeks running television commercials for a race not seen as competitive by any election forecaster or political advocacy group.

Meanwhile, his campaign has contributed just $125,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated effort to boost candidates running for all state and federal offices.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Dave Loebsack is safe, so why is he still voting like a Blue Dog?

U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack voted for yet another bad Republican bill on September 7. Despite being a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Loebsack has long had a less progressive voting record than most of his House Democratic colleagues.

Occasional conservative votes were understandable after Loebsack survived a close call in 2010 and faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside spending on attack ads before the next two general elections. But the last remaining Iowa Democrat in Congress coasted to a sixth term in 2016 with no groups spending money against him. He outperformed Hillary Clinton by about 9 points in the 24 counties he represents. Iowa’s second Congressional district is by common consent a safe Democratic seat this year. As of June 30, Loebsack’s campaign had nearly $2 million cash on hand, while his GOP challenger Christopher Peters had less than $30,000.

Why isn’t Loebsack a more reliable progressive vote in the House?

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