The Cook Political Report unveiled its new Partisan Voting Index scores for the nation’s congressional seats, and it’s all bad news for Iowa Democrats. Typically, Cook’s ratings change little year-to-year, but the shifting voter loyalties resulting from Donald Trump’s campaign upended the formula. Three of Iowa’s four congressional districts have moved significantly to the right in the new report.
Here’s the updated numbers:
The two Eastern Iowa districts that were once Democratic-leaning (even with Rod Blum carrying the 1st in 2014) are now true toss-ups, with only the tiniest advantage for Democrats. Steve King’s Northwest Iowa district has moved into deep-red territory, ranking as the 125th most-Republican in the nation. David Young’s seat improved a little for him, but not much.
All Iowans should be happy about one thing, however: we have the most swing districts in the country. Cook finds of the 435 seats, only 72 remain as relatively competitive. 75% of Iowa’s districts fall into that category. Part of that is thanks to Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process.
Although even if there were gerrymandering in Iowa, it would probably be difficult to draw a map that ensured either four lean-Republican districts or three safe-Republican districts and one safe-Democratic district. Perhaps if you put Davenport, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids all into one and split Des Moines up. Still, the current map gives Republicans a legitimate chance to win all four districts, so they should be pretty happy with what they’ve got.
The changes reflect Iowa’s rightward lurch from Trump’s election. Even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the 2nd District 171,179 to 148,408, that mattered little to Hillary Clinton, who lost that section of Southeast Iowa. Cook noted the presidential margin in each, which gives you a clear sense of just how drastically things have changed:
As we’ve noted before, Young’s district moved the least in favor of Republicans, in large part thanks to several Des Moines suburbs trending toward Democrats in 2016.
As Democrats look to 2018, many are eyeing the 23 congressional districts that Hillary Clinton won that are also represented by a Republican. But with 24 seats needed to gain control of the House, the party will need a couple pick-ups in places like Iowa (and not lose any members like Loebsack). It’s gotten tougher here to do that, but these new rankings show that three of Iowa’s districts are well within reach for either party.
by Pat Rynard