Besides a barn burner of a presidential election in Iowa, there is also a Senate seat up for grabs and three of the four congressional districts are of some interest.
Covering the northeastern portion of the state, the 1st District is currently represented by Republican freshman Rod Blum who won this seat after Democrat Bruce Braley retired to run for the Senate in a losing effort. Blum defeated Patrick Murphy in a relatively close race. This year, he will face Monica Vernon who won the party’s nod by defeating Murphy is the primary. Vernon herself is known to Iowa voters since she was on the losing gubernatorial ticket as Lt. Governor the last time out.
The First District is different from the other three in Iowa given the high percentage of self-identified independent voters (about 37% of the district’s voting age population). Since Democrats outnumber Republicans, winning independents is the key to winning this race and keeping it in GOP control. According to an internal GOP poll, Blum leads Vernon by 16 points which seems rather out of whack given the electoral history in this district. Loras released a more realistic assessment showing Blum with a 7 point lead. The good news out of that poll is that independents were breaking for Blum. This race has mainly been about social security reform with Vernon trying to paint Blum as too extreme a conservative for the district.
In the Second District which covers most of the southeastern part of the state, Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack is marginally vulnerable, but probably not this year. To his credit, his Republican opponent Christopher Peters has distanced himself from Donald Trump, but Loebsack should win reelection.
Finally, on the GOP side is David Young against Jim Mowrer on the Democratic side. Unlike the competitive 1st, Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 11,000 and there are fewer independents. That same Loras poll cited above gives Young a lead thus far and he leads among independent voters by 6 points. Equally daunting for Mowrer is the fact that Young is barely trailing him in Polk County. In order for Mowrer to prevail, he must garner more independents and win Polk County by a lot more than this poll indicates.
Mowrer is painting Young as too conservative for the District noting some votes, including one against the Import-Export Bank which, some claim, helps Iowa farmers and businesses. A sleeper issue is the Dakota Access Pipeline, some of which passes through the district. The issue is the use of eminent domain to use private property for the pipeline.
In the Senate race, Charles Grassley is up for reelection. The Democrats were all aglow when they recruited former Lt. Governor Patty Judge to run against him and they thought they had the perfect line against the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee- the Garland Supreme Court nomination. And although there was some grumbling about the issue at Grassley events, the issue never became the great one Democrats were counting on to boost Judge into the Senate and take down Grassley.
Grassley is described as “Uncle Chuck-” the Senator who fights for social security and speeds up your visa process. Conversely, Judge is viewed as the choice of the DNC or as one person put it, “…an old boy in a skirt.” And after the initial hoopla over Judge, Uncle Chuck has done nothing but increased his lead in the polls to the point that this race has dropped off the radar of most pundits.
Iowa is truly one of those swing states this year in terms of the presidential election. Donald Trump currently hold a very tenuous lead which would be in recount territory. But Trump’s most recent problems have had an effect on his standing in October. To wit, in 17 polls in September he led by an average of 2.8 points. In polling in October, he now trails Clinton by 1 percentage point.
And this tenuous situation is manifesting itself in the House races. Both Young and Blum have recently distanced themselves from Trump, but the only non-vulnerable Republican, Steven King in the 4th, remains a steadfast Trump supporter. Likewise, Grassley has been slow to condemn or unendorse Trump as his poll numbers have gone up against Judge. In fact, for Grassley it is a strategy of just running out the clock which may explain why he cancelled his appearance at a planned televised debate against Judge.
This is a difficult state to judge other than the Senate and 4th District seats. Grassley will likely be reelected as Judge really has not distinguished herself that well in this campaign. It has been quite lackluster.
One has to believe that one of the Republican congressman- most likely Blum- will go down to defeat. Two would signal a disaster in Iowa. As for the presidential race, one would have to slightly give the edge to Trump at this moment, but that could most definitely change.
After this entry, Clinton now leads in the electoral count 249-197. The Senate remains tied at this point 50-50, and the GOP maintains their lead in the House 237-198.
Next: North Carolina