The Red Wave in Iowa – Northern Iowan

*Disclaimer: The opinion articles below do not represent the opinion of the Northern Iowan Newspaper or any of its staff.

Republicans had a major victory in Iowa when voters re-elected Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Chuck Grassley

Before the midterm elections, many political pundits expected Republicans to make nationwide gains. Some were expecting massive gains, or what some have called a “red wave.” Economic concerns, especially inflation, were cited as the main reason. After a week of waiting for results, the Red Wave appears not to have happened. The Senate is again controlled by the Democratic Party. With a pending runoff in Georgia, it’s possible the Democrats will actually win a Senate seat. The Republicans narrowly won control of the US House of Representatives. Despite the lack of Republican gains across the country, however, there were a few states where Republicans made massive gains and beat expectations. One of them was Iowa.

In Iowa, US Senator Chuck Grassley and Governor Kim Reynolds were reelected. According to Associated Press election results, Grassley won all but five counties in the state of Iowa out of 99 counties. Reynolds won all but four. That’s a percentage of nearly 96% of Iowa counties. Actual voting shares included a 56.1% win for Grassley compared to 43.9% for his opponent. Reynolds received 58.1% of the vote, compared to 39.5% for her Democratic challenger. That beat the expectations of many polls, including FiveThirtyEight, which on Nov. 8 suggested Grassley would gain 51.8% and Reynolds 54.1%.

Other elections in Iowa also strongly favored Republicans. Republicans won all four seats in the US House of Representatives. For context, that hadn’t happened since 1994. In the other five statewide races, Republicans won the elections for attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and secretary of agriculture. The only statewide race Republicans haven’t won is for the auditor, who is likely heading for a recount with the Democratic incumbent. The victories for Attorney General and Treasurer were over Democratic incumbents.

In the state elections, Republicans gained even more control. According to Ballotpedia, Republicans already had a 32-to-18 majority in the Iowa Senate and a 60-to-40 majority in the Iowa House of Representatives. With six races remaining, New York Times election results show Republicans won a 33-to-16 majority in the Iowa Senate and a 63-to-32 majority in the Iowa House of Representatives. Across the board, the Iowan Republicans won big. Why did this happen in Iowa, where much of the country has remained very balanced?

This “Red Wave” was not always effective in Iowa. Iowa was still considered a swing state in 2016. Democrats held the governorship from 1999 to 2011. In both 2008 and 2012, former Democratic President Barack Obama won Iowa against Republican challengers. In 2018, three of the four elected U.S. Houses of Representatives in Iowa were Democrats.

According to an NBC News exit poll, the top two issues for US voters were inflation and abortion. Those who saw inflation as the biggest problem were more likely to vote Republican. Those who saw abortion as the biggest problem tended to vote more for the Democrats. Iowa doesn’t have as many abortions as many other states. This suggests that perhaps fewer Iowans were as concerned about abortion as it didn’t have as many direct effects as inflation. On the other hand, a state like Pennsylvania, which had nearly 10 times as many abortions as Iowa in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, may have been more concerned about abortion. The Democrats in Pennsylvania won important races such as governor and senator.

Gun policy was a third issue that worried many voters. According to NBC’s exit poll, a majority of those affected voted for the Democrats. Here in Iowa, however, another decision by voters was to pass a ballot measure that incorporated the right to bear arms into the Iowa Constitution and said that restrictions on that right should be subject to rigorous scrutiny. Over 65% of Iowa voters voted in favor of the measure.

Two factors that may have had an impact not listed in NBC’s national exit poll were COVID-19 management and education.

According to KCCI, a September 2021 poll found that a majority of Iowans supported Reynolds’ COVID-19 policies, education policies, and handling of the economy. Iowa had a faster economic recovery during COVID-19 than many other states, at least in part due to more freedom in Iowa’s personal health choices. As many Democratic-led states have taken stricter approaches to COVID-19, Iowans may have preferred this greater freedom. Gov. Reynolds also advocated for lawmakers to give parents more transparency about their children’s education. These factors may have caused Iowans to favor Republicans in this election.

After three consecutive elections to increase its majority in the Iowa legislature, as well as the resounding results of this election in favor of Republicans, it seems likely that Iowa will continue this transition from a swing state to a solidly Republican state to a decidedly Republican state. That, of course, depends on whether those Republicans continue to serve the interests of Iowans at the local, state, and national levels.