Friday, August 17, 2018

Iowa Governor- Race of the Day

81 Days Until Election Day

Iowa Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

In thinking about this race, this was a reasonably difficult one to classify. By no means does either candidate seem to have a distinct advantage, but at the same time, there is not any real evidence to suggest that an incumbent Governor, albeit unelected to that post, is in grave political danger in a state that has seen some movement towards her political party in the last few years.

Not a whole lot of people have served as Governor of Iowa over the past 50 years. A moderate Republican, who very recently passed away, held the job from 1969 to 1983. Then, Terry Branstad, a more conservative Republican was Governor from '83 to '99. When he left office, the Hawkeye State seemed to be moving a bit more to the left and a Democrat took over for two terms, and then when he left, another Democrat was elected. In 2010, as Chet Culver sought reelection, he was surprisingly challenged by none other than Terry Branstad, looking to return to power in Des Moines. He was victorious and then again in 2014, and along for the ride was the latest of Branstad's female Lt. Governors. A former State Senator, Kim Reynolds was seen as a rising star in the GOP and future candidate for higher office.

She seemed to be laying the groundwork to run for Governor in 2018, when Branstad, the nation's longest serving Governor ever, was expected to retire again. She got a head start though when Donald Trump nominated Branstad to be U.S. Ambassador to China. The confirmation process seemed to drag on forever and while Branstad's resignation was delayed by several weeks, Reynolds had a lot of time to get used to the idea of becoming Governor.

In May of 2017, Reynolds was sworn in as Iowa's first female Governor. A couple years earlier, the state elected a Republican as its first woman U.S. Senator, but interestingly enough is one of a small handful of states never to have a woman serve in the U.S. House. Many believe that at least one of the Democrats'  nominees will achieve that milestone this year. In the meantime, not every Iowa Republican loved the idea of Reynolds taking over the Governorship and becoming the face of the party on the statewide level unchallenged. Still, her incumbency and ties to Branstad would make her tough to knock off. Ron Corbett, the Mayor of Cedar Rapids, and one time House Speaker announced his candidacy but was knocked off the ballot for failing to file enough valid signatures. Reynolds had a virtual free path in the June primary.

The list of Democrats who wanted a chance at the Governorship was long, much like the crowd of Democrats who will compete in the Iowa Presidential Caucuses early in 2020 will be. Half of the field would eventually withdraw before the voting, but none more dramatically than State Senator Nate Boulton. At just 38 years old, he was seen as a promising candidate and someone who might potentially win the nomination. After all, Iowa has some sort of rule where you have to get at least 35 percent of the primary vote or else the entire nomination is thrown to a party convention where everything is up for grabs. Speaking of grabbing though, just about a month before the primary, the married Boulton was accused by three women of unwanted touching and sexual misconduct. Numerous voices in the party called on him to end his campaign, and while he still appeared on the ballot, he did suspend his candidacy and there was much political calculus as to where his former supporters might go in the race.

The primary result though produced a surprisingly strong showing for wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell, a first time candidate who easily won the nomination with 55 percent. Long active in the state and party, Hubbell spent a good deal of personal money on the race and also happened to be able to talk about his experience in 1981 as a hostage in a Pakastani hijacking. Finishing in second place way behind Hubell was nurse and labor union activst Cathy Glasson who ran as an unapologetic liberal. The only other candidate to reach double digits was John Norris, a one-time chief of staff to Governor Tom Vilsack and 2002 Congressional nominee.

Upon clinching the nomination, Hubbell selected State Senator Rita Hart, who in this heavily agricultural state has the political benefit of having a farming background, as his Lt. Governor running-mate. Running alongside Governor Reynolds is the man she she selected to take her place and serve as the interim Lt. Governor. Before holding that position, Adam Gregg was an attorney and court appointed public defender, who lost his bid for Attorney General in 2014 as the Republican nominee.

Hubbell is a strong candidate for the Democrats with money to spend and a seemingly well-organized campaign. At the age of 67 though, he may find it somewhat hard to push himself as a change agent and his wealthy background contrasts with Reynolds who often speaks of her small-town working class upbringing.

Iowa is a state where the Republicans seem to be pretty conservative, with a strong Evangelical contingent while Democrats are quite liberal. This can all lead to some combustible battles in a "purple state." Nonetheless, Iowa replaced a longtime Democrat Senator with a conservative Republican in 2004 and in 2016, the state that had twice been carried by Barack Obama, was not even considered a battleground late in the 2016 game as Donald Trump won it by over nine points. It just might be that Iowa is becoming more of a GOP foothold than it has been before.

Again, this is going to be a competitive race, and we will all have to see what the polls look like after Labor Day. A lot of residents have yet to form strong feelings about Kim Reynolds.  A strong Democrat wind nationally might very well propel Hubbell to a win, but my sense is that in Iowa, it is very possible that voters might pick a Democrat for Congress in order to "send a message" but feel most comfortable keeping a Republican in the Governor's office.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

6 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 2 Tossup) 
7 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

13 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely 1 Leans, 2 Tossup)
14 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Reynolds will survive & win easily by double digits. Big question is whether she seeks a 2nd full term in 2022 ?


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