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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Lessons of 2018: Fred Hubbell outperformed Cindy Axne in IA-03

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

Cindy Axne beat two-term U.S. Representative David Young in Iowa’s third Congressional district, while Fred Hubbell lost to Governor Kim Reynolds. So Axne must have done better than Hubbell, right?

Wrong.

Hubbell received more votes than Axne in each of IA-03’s sixteen counties, according to unofficial results. And contrary to what the red and blue counties above might lead you to believe, Hubbell outpolled Reynolds in the third Congressional district as a whole.

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Lessons of 2018: Ending straight-ticket voting didn't change much

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

Republicans ended straight-ticket voting in Iowa last year as part of a law imposing several new barriers for voters. For months, I’ve been trying to work out how eliminating that option would affect this year’s outcome.

More than 400,000 Iowans filled in the Democratic or Republican oval on their 2014 general election ballot, which worked out to roughly 37 percent of those who participated. I expected a much larger “undervote” for lower-profile statewide offices or legislative races this year, as many who would have voted straight ticket marked their ballots for governor and Congress alone.

That didn’t happen.

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Lessons of 2018: Both parties elected more women lawmakers than ever

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

The largest group of women ever to run for the Iowa legislature has produced the largest contingent of women lawmakers in state history.

For the first time, women will make up more than a third of Iowa House members and a majority of the lower chamber’s Democratic caucus.

The number of women serving in the Iowa Senate will exceed the previous record set in 2013 and 2014. In a major shift from the recent past, the women senators will include almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

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Lessons of 2018: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again

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

At least three and possibly four newly-elected members of the Iowa House had campaigned unsuccessfully for the same seats in past election cycles. Three newly-elected members of the Iowa Senate lost elections for other offices in recent years.

They join a long list of Iowa politicians–including Tom Harkin and Kim Reynolds–who did not win the first time they sought a legislative office.

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Lessons of 2018: One result provides snapshot of racism in Iowa

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

“If only there was some explanation for why Judge [Anuradha] Vaitheswaran, who was the highest rated judge on the court of appeals, did 6% worse than her colleagues in the retention election,” Josh Hughes commented sarcastically on Twitter yesterday.

Indeed, the voting on state judges up for retention in 2018 provided a snapshot of racism in Iowa.

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