The End Is Near

Are we done yet?

The closer we’ve gotten to the election, the longer every day seems to drag on, so who knows how today will feel. At this point, everyone is emotionally exhausted, from the candidates to the campaign staff to the volunteers to the voters.

I’ve been trying to think of some interesting way to wrap this whole election coverage up, but honestly I’ve covered most of the major themes I’ve wanted to. There’s still several stories that I wanted to write that I never got around to, and my brain has simply been mush the past week so the creative writing simply hasn’t occurred. I’ll take one last look at the early vote numbers and what races you should watch tomorrow.

Otherwise, all’s that left is the turnout. Volunteers and staff are swarming the state right now, chasing down every last ballot and encouraging every hesitant voter to head to the polls. In many of these legislative districts, every single hour of door-knocking counts, as at least two or three races will be decided by only a few dozen votes. I’m guessing we have at least one recount situation post-election.

On the national level, it seems like little has changed since early this year. Both candidates remain unpopular, but Donald Trump is just that much more so. The various scandals and controversies have caused short-term shifts in the polls, but the long-term trends remained. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win, but I worry it’ll be closer in the electoral college count than many Democrats would like. Let’s hope the superior Democratic ground game closes the deal.

If Trump does over-perform or actually win (yikes), it will likely be thanks in part to this closing message he has running nonstop on TV screens.

Yes, the ad has rightfully disturbed many with its focus on several Jewish people as it condemns global corporate plots, and for the all-white crowds. But for many voters who don’t follow these controversies on Twitter or recognize those things, for those who are simply listening to the message, it’s an effective one.

The system is rigged against you. Wall Street money has corrupted politicians. Our government is dysfunctional. Bad trade deals have sent our jobs overseas. The “establishment” only cares about itself. We need to return power to the people.

Those are some base arguments that a Democrat could make, just obviously with vastly different solutions than what Trump proposes. And had Trump actually stuck to these core themes, instead of saying crazy stuff and also being a horrible human being, he may well have succeeded.

Many of those populist appeals are ones Democrats could have capitalized better on this year, but did not. Win or lose, Democrats need to do the same type of autopsy that Republicans did after their 2012 loss. Actually, they should have done that after 2010 and 2014, but here we are.

On the Iowa front, there’s a lot of nervousness after the Selzer poll on Saturday showed Trump up seven points in Iowa. More discouraging was the news that even President Barack Obama has abandoned the state that gave him his start.

Iowa Democrats I talk to aren’t so much surprised that Iowa is moving to the right, they’re just surprised that it’s happening because of Trump. Sure, we’re a mostly-white state with less college educated voters than elsewhere, but we never seemed like the kind of people to get whipped up by Trump’s anger, hatred and lack of policy substance. There will be some weird soul-searching for Iowa after the election.

So what could happen in Iowa when the results are in tomorrow night?

Best case scenario, Clinton wins Iowa by a very narrow margin. Monica Vernon takes down Rod Blum and Jim Mowrer sweeps the undecideds and narrowly defeats David Young. Democrats only lose one State Senate seat, keeping the majority thanks to the one independent senator, and pick up six or seven seats in the House.

The worst case scenario is pretty bad. Trump not only wins Iowa handily by six to eight points, but the whole state turns a darker shade of red than many expected. Dave Loebsack remains the only federal Democratic official as Vernon and Mowrer lose big. Democrats get routed in the senate, losing all five of the close districts (Gronstal, Wilhelm, Sodders, Schoenjahn and Brase). House Democrats only pick up one seat, but lose their two defend districts in Northeast Iowa.

The actual result is probably somewhere in-between, hopefully much closer to the good scenario for Democrats. But Democratic insiders are very nervous right now that the party will lose their majority in the Iowa Senate, giving Republicans full control of all of Iowa’s government. As I’ve said many times, every volunteer who can get out to one of those swing senate districts needs to go right now.

If the worst does happen, however, all is not lost by any stretch of the imagination. The next two legislative sessions would be rough, but thanks to Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting, there will always be plenty of swing districts to rebound in during the next cycle. Plus a high-profile gubernatorial race will hopefully rally Democrats back to being excited about their party here. If Tuesday night goes poorly, Iowa Democrats should not be depressed. They should be excited to start the massive fight to take it all back.

The gubernatorial conversation will begin in earnest on Wednesday, as too will the discussion over who becomes the next state party chair. Currently, there’s no less than nine names being tossed about of potential contenders. But that debate is for another day.

For right now, my suggestion to my Democratic readers is to keep working those legislative districts and to not get too worried about where Iowa is headed. We can and will fight back and win no matter what happens tomorrow.


One last thing: a big thank you to all our readers and the whole Starting Line team. Starting Line got well over 100,000 views in the final month before the election! It has been a lot of fun and very fulfilling running this site for the past two years. Thanks to everyone’s help in making it a success.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 11/7/18

2 Comments on "The End Is Near"

  • If Trump carries Iowa it will be a sad reflection on the state. The Presidency is not an entry-level political position. If Clinton wins she will face a Congress that will waste more time on fruitless investigations rather than dealing with substantive issues. Climate change, immigration, crumbling infrastructure, rising medical costs and supporting educational efforts for those whose jobs will become in less demand are all issues that require collaboration and action. Trump fails to take responsibility for outcomes so if he loses he will decry the “rigged political system” as the reason for his loss.

  • It’s the power of white panic, exacerbated by fifty years of the Southern Strategy.

    I knew Iowa was going towards the white panic party when Joni Ernst took Tom Harkin’s seat in 2014.

    Just as lily-white West Virginia only stayed blue so long as Byrd was in office, Iowa – which with its low unemployment rate is not exactly a hotbed of genuine economic anxiety – is going to flip red on the national level as well as the state level and stay that way for the next decade. Only an influx of nonwhites will change this.

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