Astounding GOP wins in Iowa further signal 2020 election was no anti-Trump mandate

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Despite their claims of a coming “blue wave” and the astounding amount of money poured into statewide races, Democrats must be sorely disappointed with election results.

In states like Iowa, Democrats invested millions of dollars but were steamrolled by a red wave sparked by support for President Donald Trump. A voter turnout record was set in Iowa this year as Republican candidates in the state were buoyed by the president’s popularity, decimating the claims of an impending Democratic mandate against Trump.

Back in the 2016 election, 31 “pivot” counties that voted for former President Obama twice before, turned their support to Trump. The same counties came through again in 2020 as the president won the state over Democratic nominee Joe Biden with 53.2% to 45%, the Des Moines Register reported.

Even Democrats’ hopes of taking back the majority in the U.S. Senate were dashed as a surge of Republican voters turned out in Iowa and gave GOP Sen. Joni Ernst a victory over Democrat Theresa Greenfield.

(Image: Trump at a campaign rally in Dubuque, IA. Nov. 1, 2020. NBC News screenshot)

One Iowa congressional district was flipped by the GOP and another remained too close to call as of Wednesday, further cementing the failure of a touted blue wave in a pattern that was seen across the country as Republicans maintained statehouse majorities. On the state level in Iowa, Republicans held on to the Senate while expanding their majority in the Iowa House.

“There is no question, (the president) was a real force in the turnout of Republicans,” GOP strategist David Kochel said according to the Des Moines Register. “Without the base being as galvanized as they were, none of our candidates would have been successful.”

In spite of fears of the coronavirus pandemic, voters in the state set records in turnout via early voting and absentee ballots. Soaring past a previous record of 1,589,951 set in 2012, this year’s election saw more than 1.6 million Iowans cast ballots, according to a statement from Secretary of State Paul Pate.

“Those voting in-person on Election Day favored Donald Trump by more than 300,000,” Pate noted in a tweet on Thursday.

According to the Des Moines Register:

Before the election, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said a key focus of the party was ensuring those Trump supporters voted for Republicans all the way down the ballot. Many are not lifelong Republicans, he said, and can be unpredictable voters.

Those efforts appeared to pay off, even as Democrats hoped that tying Republicans more closely to the president would hurt them on Election Day.

 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who held her seat against former U.S. Rep. David Young, thought the campaigning differences between parties amid the pandemic may have played a part in the results.

“The Republicans went out and did the field, and Democrats didn’t,” she told the outlet on Wednesday.

“We chose to do things differently,” she said. “I think that left us at a bit of a disadvantage in making sure we got our voice out there. But I think it’s still the right thing to do, to protect people.”

“I think it always matters. It’s always how we’ve won elections in Iowa,” Eric Branstad, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign in Iowa, said of the GOP’s physical presence on the campaign trail. “… Face-to-face, even mask-to-mask, is really what works.”

Even as Americans await the final states to weigh in and determine whether Trump wins another term, in Iowa, the results were a happy surprise for even supporters of the president.

“I was not expecting this tonight,” GOP consultant Luke Martz said. “I was expecting Joni to win. And I was expecting Trump to win Iowa. I was not expecting Trump to perform as well as he did across the country. I was not expecting huge wins in Polk County for these Iowa House races. … I mean, this is what you dream of, but it’s not necessarily what you expect.”

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Frieda Powers

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