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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If Rod Blum tanks, how many Iowa House Republicans will he take with him?

A New York Times poll of Iowa’s first Congressional district this week found Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer leading two-term Representative Rod Blum by 51.5 percent to 37 percent. Finkenauer led by double digits in every turnout model the pollsters applied to the raw data. Blum’s favorability of 35 percent was even lower than President Donald Trump’s 39 percent approval rating among respondents.

As national Republican strategists and GOP-aligned advocacy groups write off Blum and election forecasters increasingly view IA-01 as a probable Democratic pickup, I’ve been thinking about how a Blum implosion could affect down-ballot Republicans. With no straight-ticket option for Iowa voters this year, coat-tails may be less important than they were in the past. Nevertheless, it can’t be good for GOP legislative candidates that Finkenauer’s campaign has had field organizers working across the district for at least six months to identify and turn out supporters.

Democrats need a net gain of ten Iowa House seats to win a majority in the lower chamber (currently split 59 R/41 D). At least eight potentially competitive GOP-held state House districts are located within the first Congressional district.

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IA-01: Republicans really are writing off Rod Blum (updated)

With just seven weeks remaining before election day, “No Republican organization has put money toward TV ads that could benefit” U.S. Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district, Barbara Rodriguez and Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register on September 17. Their analysis of television air time data from Kantar Media showed that groups supporting Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer “have spent or reserved more than $1.2 million for airing political ads” in IA-01. Blum’s campaign has placed $129,000 in television ad buys, and no GOP-aligned groups have indicated plans to advertise in the district.

In many battleground Congressional races, candidates run mostly positive tv ads, while outside groups pay for the hatchet jobs. That normal division of labor won’t be available to Blum. He will have to cover the cost of any negative ads about Finkenauer from his own campaign funds, leaving less money to make an case for himself on the air.

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Five ways ending straight-ticket voting could affect Iowa's 2018 election

For the first time in living memory, Iowans will not have the option of filling in one oval to vote a straight ticket for a political party in this year’s general election. Republicans eliminated straight-ticket voting here in 2017, as GOP legislators have done in several other states in recent years. The more publicized provisions of Iowa’s new law, on voter ID and signature verification, will benefit Republicans by creating obstacles for eligible voters in groups that tend to favor Democrats (people with lower incomes, college students, racial minorities, and senior citizens).

By contrast, the impact of eliminating straight-ticket voting is less clear. More Iowans filled in the Republican oval than the Democratic one in the 2014 election, the only midterm for which such statistics are available.

One thing is for sure:

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