# Mike Franken



Did low turnout sink Iowa Democratic candidates?

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

Many people have asked why Iowa experienced the red wave that didn’t materialize across most of the country. While no one factor can account for the result, early signs point to turnout problems among groups that favor Democratic candidates.

Although this year’s turnout was the second-highest in absolute numbers for an Iowa midterm, participation was down about 8 percent compared to the 2018 general election. The number of Iowans who cast ballots this year (1,230,416) was closer to the 2014 level (1,142,311) than to the high-water mark of 1,334,279, reached four years ago.

My impression is that the decline in turnout was not evenly distributed, but was more pronounced among registered Democrats than among Republicans, who have long been more reliable midterm voters in Iowa.

That alone could account for the narrow defeats of U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (who lost to Zach Nunn in the third Congressional district by 2,145 votes, a margin of 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent), Attorney General Tom Miller (lost to Brenna Bird by 20,542 votes, 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent), and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (lost to Roby Smith by 30,922 votes, or 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent).

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Self-governance: It could be worse. It should be better

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

“It could be worse.”

At the start of 2022, friends may have uttered those four words to console or comfort us.

As the midterm elections approach, those four words may be prophetic.

Every election in a democracy —from township to presidency — is threatened by voters who are ill-informed, misinformed, and/or uninformed.

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New Selzer Iowa Poll points to "winnable" race for Democrats

Dan Guild is a lawyer and project manager who lives in New Hampshire. In addition to writing for Bleeding Heartland, he has written for CNN and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. He also contributed to the Washington Post’s 2020 primary simulations. Follow him on Twitter @dcg1114.

Ann Selzer commented on her latest Iowa Poll of the U.S. Senate race for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom: “It says to me that Franken is running a competent campaign and has a shot to defeat the seemingly invincible Chuck Grassley — previously perceived to be invincible.”

The gold-standard pollster‘s statement will shock many political observers. Forecasters that issue ratings on Senate races have uniformly discounted any chance that Chuck Grassley will lose. This race is simply not on the national radar. Since 2016, Iowa has seemingly marched inexorably toward becoming a red state.

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Where do Iowa's candidates stand on science policy? We asked them

Dan Chibnall, Annabelle Lolinco, and Riley Troyer co-authored this post.

Chuck Grassley, a Republican seeking an eighth term in the U.S. Senate, is concerned that science is becoming politicized, but fears any official responsible for stopping it could become politicized themselves.

Michael Franken, Grassley’s Democratic challenger, says the government should dismantle giant agricultural monopolies and promote regional food hubs to make Iowa farms more sustainable.

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Iowa Republicans call Democrats extreme on abortion. Will voters buy it?

Republicans seeking Iowa’s federal offices take some important advantages into the November election. Most are incumbents with more money to spend than their challengers. Recent history suggests midterms favor the party out of power in Washington, and President Joe Biden has low approval numbers in Iowa.

One wild card complicates the equation for GOP candidates here, as in many other states. Republicans are on record supporting near-total abortion bans, while a majority of voters favor keeping abortion mostly legal.

Republican campaign messaging has emphasized other topics, such as inflation, taxes, or unpopular Washington politicians. When they can’t avoid talking about abortion, Republicans have claimed their Democratic opponents are the real extremists on the issue.

Several races may hinge on whether moderate voters buy into that distortion of the facts.

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Iowa's U.S. Senate race in 3-D

Herb Strentz examines Chuck Grassley’s recent political messaging and low points from his record in the Senate.

The home stretch of this midterm election campaign is unfolding in in 3-D format — Dire, Divisive, and Despairing. That’s particularly true of the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, seeking his eighth term at age 89, and Democrat Michael Franken, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, who will be 65 on election day, November 8.

That 3-D nature of our Iowa politics was illustrated well in one of the Grassley campaign’s recent television commercials.

In a backhanded way, Grassley acknowledged why it is time for Iowans to vote him out of office.

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