Iowa was among the most closely watched states during the 2018 midterms, following Donald Trump’s 10-point victory in this once solidly Democratic state. Heavily white midwestern states like Iowa once composed the Democratic “Blue Wall,” and Democrats’ chances to unseat Trump in 2020 hinge on their ability to get states like Iowa back into their column.
Democrats’ most impressive Iowa victories in 2018 came from their House candidates. In Iowa’s northeastern 1st district, state rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) delivered a 5-point defeat to incumbent Rod Blum (R), who held the seat since the 2014 Republican wave. Similarly, Cindy Axne (D) unseated Rep. David Young (R) by a 2-point margin in the Des Moines-based 3rd district. Republicans did not even make a serious attempt at unseating Dave Loebsack (D) in the 2nd district. He won reelection by a margin of over 10 points.
Maybe the most surprising result came in Iowa’s blood-red 4th district. Controversial Rep. Steve King (R) was reelected by a margin of just 3 points, in a district Donald Trump carried by almost 30 points in 2016.
Iowa Democrats’ largest disappointment probably came in the governor’s race, where Fred Hubbell (D) fell short of unseating Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). Polls had shown Hubbell with a narrow lead heading into election day.
Democrats’ largest victory came in the state treasurer’s race, where incumbent Michael L. Fitzgerald (D) won reelection by 12 points. Fitzgerald has been Iowa treasurer since his first election in 1982. He is the longest serving state treasurer in the US.
Despite a strong national environment, Democrats flipped only a single statewide Iowa office. Rob Sand (D) won the state auditor’s office, defeating incumbent Mary Mosiman (R) by 4.5 points. Sand is probably best-known for his role in exposing the Hot Lotto scam.
Sand’s victory rested largely on his outperformance of Hubbell in more rural, outlying areas. He demonstrated a particular strength in the state’s northeastern region, where many voters split their tickets between Gov. Reynolds and himself. He probably provides the most plausible roadmap to statewide victory for Iowa Democrats in the near future.