Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses the Iowa GOP State Convention, on June 11, 2022, talking about the upcoming general election. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Republican energy was high at Iowa’s State Republican Convention Saturday. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate held up a newspaper, reading aloud a story on high Republican turnout in the June 7 primary election.
“We need to continue to do that,” Pate told the crowd.
Republicans are hoping to turn that voter participation into a red wave in the general election, to both retain their majority in Iowa’s state and national delegations and flip remaining seats, like the one held by U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne. National political forecasters see potential pickups for the Iowa GOP alongside national Republican wins.
Candidates for statewide and national office have spent the first few days campaigning in the general election talking about the impacts of President Joe Biden’s time in office.
“Leadership matters,” Reynolds said. “And I think it’s fair to say that after the past 16 months, elections have consequences.”
Reynolds, alongside incumbent U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, talked about how Biden’s administration and Democratic U.S. House leadership have hurt Iowans. They specifically brought up gas prices, inflation, abortion and border insecurity. Stopping Biden’s agenda starts with winning the House, speakers reiterated – which means flipping Iowa’s 3rd District.
State Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Altoona, the Republican 3rd Congressional District nominee, said Iowans want change in Washington.
“The 3rd District is not just about winning here in Iowa and turning our state red,” he said. “It’s about holding Biden and (U.S. House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi accountable.”
Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, election handicappers, both changed their predictions for the district to “leans Republican” after Nunn’s primary win at 65.75%. In 2020, Axne won reelection even though former President Donald Trump narrowly carried the district. Under redistricting, Axne’s territory encompasses more conservative areas.
“While Axne retains a sizeable cash-on-hand advantage, the terrain may be too red,” one Crystal Ball report said.
That shift reflects a national takeaway from Tuesday’s primary election: Democrats may see trouble come November. Some analysts are pointing to other races June 7 – an open House seat in Oregon, the mayor’s race in Los Angeles, and the recall of a progressive district attorney in San Francisco – as signs of a strong Republican midterm showing.
Both Iowa’s governor and Senate races, where Democrats will take on incumbents Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, are marked as “safe” Republican seats by both election analysts.
Republican victory predictions in the general election are in part because of backlash against Biden’s time in office. In the most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 2, only 35% said they approved of Biden’s job performance.
Iowa Democrats are taking different approaches to countering potential backlash from growing Biden unpopularity. Deidre DeJear, Democratic candidate for governor, said voters need to focus less on national parties.
“There are a great deal of challenges and barriers that this administration is putting before Iowans that has literally nothing to do with the presidency,” DeJear told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “If I were them, I would focus on the presidency too, if I were the reason for all the issues.”
In a Democratic U.S. Senate primary debate, all three candidates running gave Biden a B rating. Michael Franken, the primary winner, said the Democratic administration struggled responding to the war in Ukraine and with national pandemic policy after Trump.
Despite these concessions, candidates like Nunn call for a national power shift.
“(We are) taking back our country,” Nunn said. “And it starts right here in Iowa.”
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