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.