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Tipsheet

Obama Won This State Twice, But It's Deep Red Now

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

There seems to be an underreported trend as we approach the final days of the 2022 elections. Once this cycle ends, the 2024 election begins—part of the ongoing cycle of our political system. We’re on red tsunami watch, which could usher in an antagonistic Republican Congress that will block and dilute any future Biden initiatives. Joe Biden will become merely a caretaker while his party will undoubtedly debate whether he could run for re-election in 2024. We all know Joe might want to, but he might not be physically or mentally capable of doing it. He’s on vacation often, blowing past the number of days Trump was on relaxation. 

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The experts say that a recession will happen by the spring of next year, ignorant of the fact that we’re already in one—the Biden administration just decided to ignore the quarterly reports. So, as we’re destined to look to 2024, the day after Election Day 2022, Democrats can probably take Iowa off the board. It might not be a shock to some since the GOP has won this state in the past two presidential cycles, but this was Obama country—twice (via Bloomberg):

Iowa tapped Barack Obama for two terms as president but has leaned rightward since backing Donald Trump twice, reaching a point now where the outcome of next month’s election could end its status as a swing state. 

The Hawkeye State’s lone congressional Democrat, Cindy Axne, is in a tight contest as Republicans aim to turn the state’s congressional delegation fully to their side for the first time since the 1950s. Since 2020, the share of registered Democrats has slipped, while Republicans and independent voters have increased. Governor Kim Reynolds, both its US senators, three of the four US representatives and the majority in the state legislature are Republicans. 

[…] 

“If Republicans sweep the statewide offices along with the federal and state legislative races in 2022, Iowa’s status as a bellwether is probably over,” said Andrew Green, a political science professor at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and an independent voter. “Iowa has always been known for having an independent streak.” 

But Iowa may lose its bellwether status because its position as the site of the first presidential nominating contest may not last after several problems with the 2020 caucus. Candidates, pollsters, strategists and reporters normally flock there almost two years before a presidential election to shake hands, hit fairs and attend county luncheons to take the temperature of the largely White and rural state. 

[…] 

As they are nationwide, Republicans are telling voters that Democrats are out of touch with the economic pain Iowans feel. Meanwhile, Democrats are stressing abortion rights after the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure. 

Inflation has particular resonance in Iowa. Rising costs and surging fertilizer prices are eroding the value of many farmers’ incomes, and they say they are worried about demand for the state’s corn-based ethanol amid the national push to electric vehicles. And working families say they are fretting about the availability and cost of child care. 

Three of Iowa’s four congressional districts are among the most competitive in the midterms but are leaning or likely Republican, according to the Cook Political Report.

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There has been a string of supposed swing states that are now red bastions. Just look at Florida and Ohio. These are two states that were once hailed as swing territory, but that’s no longer the case. Florida has long been seen as ground zero for Republicans since Democrats supposed Electoral College advantage was so extensive that losing Florida would lock out the GOP from the White House forever. Hypothetically, that wasn’t an inaccurate claim, but public opinion shifts that prevent the establishment of permanent majorities. The 2016 election blew that fear apart. 

One of the reasons why Republicans were afraid about losing Florida was the influx of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans—who lean Democratic. That blue surge never materialized from that demographic, and by 2020, the Latino vote in Florida shifted to the Republicans. 

Ohio is another state that Democrats worry they might not be able to win again. Yet, this year’s U.S. Senate election between Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance is seen as a toss-up race to the experts. Given how the state is trending politically, I doubt Ryan will be elected to the U.S. Senate. Before he left the Republican Party, George Will had a funny descriptor regarding the GOP strategy for winning the White House pre-Obama, which was to win the South, the Midwest, and parts of the West, and then spend the equivalent of the GDP of Brazil and take Ohio. 

Yet, Obama winning Iowa twice shows how Democrats have lost their way in the past decade. The former president did one thing current liberals view as anathema now: reach out to white working-class voters. Obama didn’t win this demographic entirely, but won enough of them—around 35-40 percent—which was enough to put states, like Iowa and Indiana, in play which were Democratic pipe dreams in past elections. That should also serve as a warning to Republicans: all glory is fleeting. If Democrats find someone who eschews leftist tendencies on social issues and talks law and order, job creation, and fairer trade deals—you’d be surprised how this voting bloc breaks. If we want to talk about swing territories regarding elections, white working-class voters are it, having voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats need to stop being snobs, and they likely will make inroads with this group again. However, that’s entirely dependent on if the urban professionals, who dominate the party, want to do that.

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For now, Iowa is deep red, and I doubt Democrats will even consider moderating their oozing condescension to make a pitch to working people.

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