Kirsten Gillibrand will take a tour next week through the Eastern Iowa counties that gave her predecessor in the Senate so many difficulties in the 2016 presidential campaign. The planned trip for next Tuesday and Wednesday takes Gillibrand along the Mississippi River, hitting Dubuque, Davenport, Muscatine, and Burlington. She makes a stop in Ottumwa before coming back to Des Moines for a town hall forum.

Gillibrand will be the first Democratic candidate to visit the cities of Muscatine and Burlington this year (a few others visited them in 2018). The 2020 field has spent significant time in Western Iowa’s Steve King country the past few months, but few have ventured down to southeast corner of the state.

While much attention has been given to Democrats’ problems in rural Iowa, the other challenge that is just as large – if not larger – for the party is its recent performance in mid-sized, blue-collar counties. Republicans have always held the advantage in much of Iowa’s rural counties, but it was Donald Trump’s surprising performance in places like Dubuque, Muscatine, and Burlington that really sealed Democrats’ fate here.

Formerly Democratic strongholds with a powerful labor union presence, the working-class cities along the Mississippi River used to contribute heavily to the party’s winning margins. Not so any more.

Trump was the first Republican since 1956 to carry Dubuque County. Barack Obama won it 57% to 42% just four years earlier. Similar trends continued for state Democrats. Fred Hubbell carried Dubuque County for Democrats in the governor’s race last year, but by just 576 votes. This was the county that Chet Culver got a 7,431-vote margin in 2006, and Tom Vilsack carried by 6,300 votes in 2002.

Indeed, all up and down the Mississippi River, Democrats’ strength has taken a nosedive in recent years. Here’s each Iowa county on the eastern edge of the state, from north to south, and the recent presidential results (bolded are the counties that Gillibrand will visit):

Obama % 2012 Clinton % 2016
Allamakee 51.5 35.0
Clayton 52.8 35.5
Dubuque 56.6 46.0
Jackson 57.8 37.2
Clinton 60.8 43.8
Scott 56.3 45.4
Muscatine 56.8 43.1
Louisa 49.8 32.9
Des Moines 58.6 43.0
Lee 57.2 38.5

While there are other counties in the state that had larger percentage swings (most notably Howard County’s 40-point margin swing), several of these Eastern Iowa counties have significant population centers in them. All in all, Clinton’s vote total dropped by about 36,000 from Obama’s in these ten counties.

In her first visits to Iowa, Gillibrand has highlighted how she won a 2-to-1 Republican congressional district in Upstate New York. During her 2018 reelection race for the Senate, she carried 18 counties that Trump won, including many places with similar demographics to towns in Iowa.

For any Democrat to be successful in Iowa – or across the Midwest, for the matter – they’ll need to figure out how to turn these Mississippi River counties back into deep-blue bases of support.

Here’s Gillibrand’s tentative schedule:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Dubuque Meet and Greet (Stop #1 of Mississippi River Tour)
Time: 1:30pm-2:30 pm / Doors open at 1:15 pm
Location: Inspire Cafe, 955 Washington St. #105, Dubuque, Iowa 52001
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

Davenport Meet and Greet (Stop #2 of Mississippi River Tour)
Time: 6:30-7:30 pm / Doors open at 6:00 pm
Location: The Barrell House, 211 E 2nd St., Davenport, IA 52801
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Coffee in Muscatine (Stop #3 of Mississippi River Tour)
Time: 10:00am-11:00 am / Doors open at 9:45am
Location: RED Berry Cafe, 710 Grandview Ave., Muscatine, Iowa 52761
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

Burlington Meet and Greet (Stop #4 of Mississippi River Tour)
Time: 12:45pm-1:45pm / Doors open at 12:30pm
Location: Bent River Brewery, 500 Jefferson St., Burlington, Iowa 52601
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

Ottumwa Meet and Greet
Time: 3:15pm-4:15pm / Doors open at 3:00pm
Location: Market on Main, 331 E Main St, Ottumwa, Iowa, 52501
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

Des Moines Town Hall
Event: Senator Gillibrand will host a town hall meeting with Iowa caucus-goers
Time: 6:30pm-8:00pm / Doors open at 6:00 p.m.
Location: The River Center, 340 SW 3rd St., Des Moines, Iowa 50309
This event is open to the public, RSVP link here.

 

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 3/13/19

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