Rebuilding in the Hawkeye State

After a bad 2016 for Democrats in Iowa, there is renewed hope for progress. Building on two congressional pickups in 2018, Theresa Greenfield is running a spirited challenge against incumbent Senator Joni Ernst. Ernst’s surprisingly strong margin in her 2014 campaign foretold the broader story of a Republican takeover of the state, as they took full control of the legislature in 2016.

The latest polling from Ann Selzer, widely respected as the most reliable Iowa pollster, has Greenfield leading by three points. Other polling has had Biden running competitively in the state. These top-of-the-ticket dynamics, plus the specific competitive seats up for grabs in 2020, give us a real shot to build back Democratic power in the Hawkeye State in 2020. Here’s the story in both chambers.

Iowa House

Almost all national attention has gone to the Iowa House, where Democrats need to pick up four seats to net a majority. We’ve endorsed in five seats and the latest polling shows us that all could be Democratic victories this November. There is a larger set of ten districts that most observers agree serve as the battleground this year. As we’ll discuss throughout this post, the key question in Iowa depends on whether Democrats can both continue to make gains with suburban, college educated voters on the edges of Iowa’s major urban areas and whether Democrats can regain the rural strength they once had.

As you can see below, at least at the last financial reports, Democrats were also off to a good start against their Republican opponents. That’s further cause for optimism. But the overall low fundraising totals also mean that our candidates will need that final push to get their message to every last potential Democratic voter.

Table 1. EveryDistrict’s Iowa House Endorsements

Total Raised$52,270$92,689$74,879$24,326$73,064
Raise Advantage$40,335$76,605$70,173$7,590$65,994
Total Cash on Hand$50,032$76,903$67,095$22,807$68,408
Cash on Hand Advantage$41,720$64,602$63,199$17,716$66,186
Fundraising data as of the last filed reports in July.

Iowa Senate

Fewer groups are investing in the Iowa Senate and the reason is clear: a majority escapes us this year. Winning the eight seats needed is a bridge too far. However, the Iowa Senate is one of those chambers that splits its elections in two: half the Senate will be up again in 2022. We think it is pivotal that we make as many gains as possible this year to give Democrats a chance in 2022 to change the chamber. As a result, we’ve endorsed seven candidates in the Senate. As in the House, these districts span rural and suburban districts. The path in Iowa – as in other Midwestern states like Minnesota – depends on doing both.

Table 2. EveryDistrict’s Iowa Senate Endorsements

Total Raised$33,322$79,710$87,257$44,783$69,859$38,215$35,534
Raise Advantage($32,490)$48,631$68,333$41,988$47,069$17,862$1,608
Total Cash on Hand$25,195$63,183$29,652$35,368$65,323$29,656$28,261
Cash on Hand Advantage($24,534)$46,272$8,088$32,707$48,476$18,091$12,650
Fundraising data as of the last filed reports in July.

Bottom Line

As we look across the country, Iowa stands as a state with real opportunity to change the state legislative landscape and to create the conditions for broader federal-level victories for Democrats. With just over a month until Election Day, donors often ask us: where are the best places to spend our resources? Targeted investments in Iowa could yield a rebuilt Democratic heartland and a substantially stronger chance at a real Democratic majority in the US Senate.

Make a donation that will support EveryDistrict’s Iowa candidates who need your support by clicking below. 100% of what you give will go directly to Iowa state legislative candidates who can flip districts blue.