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GOP hopeful Trump win could indicate Iowa turning red

Nov 07, 2016

DES MOINES (AP) — For decades, Iowa has been a so-called purple state that tended to favor Democrats for president while still voting plenty of Republicans into other offices. But recent elections seem to show the state is taking on a decidedly reddish hue.

Even as polling shows Republican Donald Trump has slipped in other battleground states, he appears to be running strongly in Iowa, with a good chance of becoming only the second GOP candidate to win the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Republicans currently dominate Iowa's congressional delegation and hold the statewide offices of governor, secretary of state, secretary of agriculture and auditor.

"In the short term Iowa is decidedly turning red," said Tim Albrecht, a Republican consultant who has served as spokesman for Republicans in the Legislature and governor's office. "It's quite possible this could be a single-state wave election in the state of Iowa."

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann agrees short-term trends indicate Iowa is leaning more conservative, and he's watching this election for confirmation.

"I like the direction we're heading," he said. "I think there are some indicators this may be long term."

Iowa is one of only seven states with split-party control of its Legislature. Republicans are optimistic they can pick up the needed two seats to win a majority in the Senate this election.

If they succeed, Kaufmann said it could be an indication that conservatism is growing deeper roots. Another sign would be if the GOP retains the 1st and 3rd congressional districts, where Democrats should be strong.

Andy McGuire, Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman, doesn't buy the argument that Iowa is turning red. She contends 2014 was a one-off year in which the GOP rallied its base and turned out more voters and not a sign of any long-term conservative trend.

"Everything I see right now tells me we're a tossup state," McGuire said. "I don't think we're red. One of the reasons I took this job as chair was to make sure we didn't turn red."

She believes Iowa will surprise pundits who believe Trump will carry the state, noting little polling has been done in Iowa since the release of a videotape of him discussing groping women.

"If we get our votes in we'll win," she said.

Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, said it isn't unusual for Republicans to dominate off-year elections because Democrats and independent voters often stay home.

He and others note Iowa also has a history of favoring one party, only to abruptly shift to the other party.

That happened in 1997, when voters gave Republicans control of the Legislature and governor's office, only to give Democrats control of the governor's office in the next election.

The extreme swings result from the state's electorate being split almost evenly into thirds between Republicans, Democrats and independents.

"What makes Iowa potentially red is not that you have an increase in registered Republicans, it's by default when Democrats and Independents don't vote," he said. "I think we're still a purple state in terms of party identification."

Goldford predicted the presidential race will be close, and even a Trump victory won't signal a hard right by Iowa voters. He turned to a baseball analogy to argue it's too soon to tell if Iowa had become a reliably Republican state.

"If all of a sudden Iowa were to turn out red for Trump, OK, that means that Iowa Republicans have been successful in two out of the last 8 presidential elections. A .250 batter is no big deal. So we won't know that yet," he said.

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