Who Can Win Back Iowa’s Blue-Collar Counties?

Back during Elaine Baxter’s childhood, party loyalty was a simple matter. “When I was growing up, it would be unthinkable if you worked in a factory and were a Republican,” Baxter explained to Starting Line last week. “The two didn’t go together.” Now 86, Baxter, who served as Iowa’s Secretary of State from 1987 to 1995, has seen a sea change in her adopted hometown of Burlington, Iowa. Once a Democratic stronghold, the blue-collar Mississippi River town with a population of 25,000 became a key flip in Donald Trump’s 9-point win over Hillary Clinton in 2016. “People we know were […]

How The 2020 Candidates Are Staffing Up In Iowa

It’s Iowa Caucus season, which means all of the top political staffers in the country have begun their migration from D.C. and battleground campaigns out to the Hawkeye state. Presidential candidates have aggressively courted campaign operatives with Iowa ties for months, and most of the top talent has already been snatched up. Which Democratic contenders are putting together the largest operations? What networks are they pulling from? Who has the most people with key Iowa relationships? Starting Line has been tracking the staffing scene for a while now, and we have finally put together a comprehensive look at how it’s […]

They’re Not Running, But They Could Shape The 2020 Debate In Iowa

Iowa saw more than its fair share of Democratic presidential hopefuls come through the state these past two years – more than two dozen by my count. But not every Democrat with a national profile who traveled to Iowa had their eyes on a White House run. And while several notable names won’t be candidates in the wild, free-for-all Iowa Caucus in 2020, their vision, work and influence here could easily shape how the nomination process plays out. Rising stars in Congress like Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal could help form the debate over what it means to be a […]

On The Road With J.D. Scholten’s Campaign To Defeat Steve King

There’s few summer activities more quinesstential than a father/son road trip in an RV. Stopping at small town restaurants. Sleeping in a pull-down bed. Navigating through country roads. But one extra feature of J.D. Scholten and his father Jim’s tour around Iowa in their new RV is that J.D. is also running for Congress. As Scholten was entering the final months of Democrats’ three-way primary to take on Steve King, he faced a difficult problem: Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is a sprawling, 39-county swath of Western and Northern Iowa. Scholten leads the pack of Democrats vying for the nomination in […]

A Day In The Life Of A Nate Boulton Field Organizer

Later this evening, thousands of dedicated Iowa Democrats will trudge through the snow and the cold to attend their local precinct caucus. It’s expected to see the largest attendance ever for a non-presidential year caucus, but the stakes involved with the gubernatorial primary alone don’t ensure people turn out. Phone calls, meetings, trainings and door-knocking by campaign staff and volunteers – thousands of hours of work in all for every single campaign – get voters into those caucus rooms. That’s what Nate Boulton field organizer Adam Henderson was working on during a recent Friday when Starting Line shadowed him for […]

With Zach Wahls And More, Iowa Dems’ Future Is On The Ballot In 2018

Few elections have ever held more longterm consequences for a state than the upcoming 2018 races in Iowa. A few of the issues at stake: the survival of public unions and Planned Parenthood, the existence of mental healthcare services, and the state’s own political identity as a purple or red state. Iowa could soon become the next Kansas for decades to come, or a Democratic wave could return balance to the Statehouse. But for the Democratic Party here, 2018 presents one more opportunity that could outlive all of those outcomes: the chance to vote into office a raft of young […]

State Of The Race In Iowa’s 3rd District (October 2017)

Starting Line’s analysis of Iowa’ four congressional races continues today with the most intriguing primary of all: the Des Moines-based 3rd District. Four, possibly five Democrats have a real shot at winning the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Republican Congressman David Young. It’s also more likely than not that the nomination goes to a convention if no candidate gets to 35%, the amount required by Iowa law to avoid doing so. Young himself prevailed in a nominating convention in 2014 after coming in 5th place in the primary. Could the Democrat who finally defeats him come out of a […]

Boulton Blasts Off: Big Crowds Greet His Statewide Tour

The first leg in Nate Boulton’s long marathon to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination saw a common theme at his kick-off events in breweries, restaurants and coffee shops this week: energy. Boulton was met by cheering crowds in packed rooms where the atmosphere felt more like the weekend before Election Day, rather than an introductory visit a year and a half out. At several stops attendees stomped and clapped their feet to mimic Boulton’s announcement video. In years past, Iowa Democratic candidates have struggled to turn out even dozens of party loyalists to local meet-and-greets in cities large and small. Sure, you can get a […]

Democrats’ Gubernatorial Hopefuls Make Their Pitch In Rural Iowa

The Democrats’ quest to retake Terrace Hill kicked off in Quasqueton this weekend, a tiny, picturesque town in Buchanan County. Local Democrats held a county party fundraiser that five gubernatorial hopefuls attended. The contenders chatted with Northeast Iowa activists over a barbeque dinner before delivering their pitches in front of the room. With a loaded speaker lineup – 13 in all – the event stretched on for nearly four hours, but the 100 attendees – angered by recent Republican-passed legislation – stayed and listened intently long after the sun had set. The five gubernatorial candidates (or potential candidates) on hand […]

Take Our Video Tour Of Iowa’s Changing Voting Trends By Precinct

Here at Starting Line, I’ve written several posts looking at precinct-by-precinct results from both the 2016 election and the Iowa Caucus to give readers a sense of how and why Iowa’s voting trends are changing. No swing state shifted more than Iowa in the general election (from Obama +6 in 2012 to Trump +10 in 2016), but to really understand it all you need to look at individual precincts to see where the changes occurred. Fortunately, a data lover by the name of Ryne Rohla compiled the voting data for every precinct in the United States and put it all in […]