A Look at the 2020 Election: Iowa

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

There’s a lot going on in Iowa in 2020 with a Senate race, the Presidential sweepstakes and all four House seats.  Let’s start with that Senate race that pits GOP incumbent Joni Ernst against Democrat rival Theresa Greenfield. 

Both have been prolific fundraisers, but Ernst starts off with a large cash-on-hand total.  Greenfield had to fight off three challengers in their primary and pulled in less than 50% of the vote although she managed to win all but one of Iowa’s 99 counties.  The list of endorsements for Greenfield is a who’s who of 2020 Democrat Presidential wannabes.  For those unfamiliar with Greenfield, she ran in the 2018 Third District primary but had to withdraw after her campaign manager forged signatures to get her name on the ballot.  Her background is real estate, but her website depicts her as a “farm girl”…living in Des Moines.

Most pundits have this race rated a toss-up or, at best, leaning slightly to Ernst.  Like a lot of races, this will be a tough one and Greenfield talks a good talk.  But when you have the likes of Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren endorsing you, the voters of Iowa better look long and hard before pulling the lever for her. 

As for Ernst, she has not been exactly on fire on the campaign trail and some miscues in the summer may have people having second thoughts.  Incumbency may be the deciding factor here as Ernst’s approval ratings, although not stellar, among the people of Iowa are not in the dangerous territory.  She needs to play a little more offense against Greenfield who is a relative unknown and paint her in some corner on issues or her vision of America. Greenfield’s campaign website is long on the usual political pablum and few specifics besides more spending on education and strengthening Obamacare.  

Ernst won an open race in 2014 after Democrat Tom Harkin retired from the Senate, and defeated Bruce Braley by about nine points.  This year it may be a little closer.  Ernst needs to take the threat seriously or she may find herself castrating pigs a lot sooner than she anticipated.  This writer believes incumbency stands for something and there is really no reason for the voters to boot her out of the Senate other than “Just because…”  I will likely come back to this race later, but for now it is in the Ernst column.

The current delegation to the House favors the Democrats 3-1 which is kind of out-of-whack for such a swing state.  There is an open Democrat seat in the Second District as Dave Loebsack is retiring.  This is the southeast corner of the state that leans towards the Democrats.  The battle will pit Republican state senator Marianette Miller-Meeks against Democrat Rita Hart.  The Democrats will work hard to keep this seat.  There is also an open Republican seat in the Fourth District as Republican Steven King lost his primary to Randy Feenstra, but it really came as no big surprise and this district is composed of 39 ruby red western counties in Iowa, so Feenstra will win.

That leaves the First and Third Districts, both held by Democrats.  In the First District, Abby Finkenauer will take on Republican Ashley Arenholz.  She is quite the fundraiser (and not bad looking either…in an Iowa sort of way).  In 2018, David Young lost the Third District to current Democrat incumbent Cindy Axne by less than 8,000 votes in a year not favorable for the GOP and he is back for a rematch this year.  So what’s the skinny here in the House races?  It all depends on Trump.

In 2016, Trump managed to carry nine of the ten eastern counties along the Mississippi River which is a part of Iowa that trends towards the Democrats.  Trump has not lost support among Republicans in the state.  West of those counties, he should do fine.  So let’s put the Third in the GOP column, so they pick up at least one seat out of Iowa.  As for the First, it depends if Trump can replicate his 2016 performance in those eastern counties since the district encompasses several of them.    

As for Trump, these will be 6 hard-fought-for electoral votes.  He won by nine points in 2016 and it will likely be a little closer this year, but he should prevail by about 7 points.  His overall approval rating stands at a rather consistent 46% which is usually good enough for the voters to choose an incumbent.  Because this is Iowa, farm policy is vitally important.  The biggest market for Iowa soybeans is China.  Allaying fears in this area is a must.  Still, Iowa’s farmers have given Trump the benefit of the doubt and are unlikely to support Biden, despite his billions in promises, if they perceive him as a threat to the way of American life.  I will put this one in the Trump column.

Running Totals

Sleepy Joe is still in the lead 223-153 in the electoral vote count.  In the House, the GOP creeps closer and trails the Democrats 161-128 while Republicans take the lead in the Senate 43-41.  

Next: Texas

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