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Iowa's Schizophrenic 2010 Electorate

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A Democratic majority U.S. House delegation from Iowa is sent to D.C. under historic circumstances in 2011

Even though each of the individual outcomes were foreseeable - a GOP takeover of the Iowa House of Representatives, the election of Terry Branstad to the governor's mansion, a Democratic hold in the State Senate, and Democratic victories in their U.S. House seats (all projected by Smart Politics) - taken together, history was made in the Hawkeye State on November 2nd.

A Smart Politics analysis of historical election data finds that Iowans elected a Democratic majority U.S. House delegation to D.C. for the first time in state history when also electing a Republican governor and a GOP majority in the House of Representatives.

Three weeks ago, in the face of a Republican wave that saw more than five dozen seats picked up by the GOP nationwide, Iowans narrowly reelected each of their three Democratic U.S. Representatives in the 1st (Bruce Braley, by 2.1 points), 2nd (David Loebsack, by 5.0 points), and 3rd (Leonard Boswell, pictured above, by 4.0 points) Congressional Districts.

The election of a Democratic majority U.S. House delegation from Iowa is unusual in and of itself - it has occurred only seven times across the previous 77 election cycles since the birth of the Republican Party in the mid-1850s.

Each of these previous instances in which a Democratic-led delegation was sent to Washington occurred during election cycles in which Democrats made gains in the U.S. House nationwide: 1932 (+97 seats), 1934 (+9), 1936 (+12), 1974 (+49), 1976 (+1), 2006 (+31), and 2008 (+21).

But what is even more unusual about 2010 is that Representatives Braley, Loebsack, and Boswell all held their seats while Republicans made such impressive gains up and down the ballot.

For example, on only one prior occasion (1974) have Iowans elected a Republican governor while also electing a majority of their U.S. Representatives from the Democratic Party.

In 1974's post-Watergate election cycle, Republican incumbent Robert Ray won his fourth consecutive two-year term, while five of the state's six U.S. House seats landed in the Democratic column.

A Democratic sweep in the U.S. House that year was only avoided by Republican Chuck Grassley's first congressional victory - a 1.6-point win over Stephen Rapp in the 3rd CD's open seat race. (Current Iowa U.S. Senator Tom Harkin was also elected to Congress for the first time that year).

Republicans also scored huge gains this cycle in the Iowa House of Representatives (winning in a bloodbath as predicted by Smart Politics) - netting 16 seats to turn a 12-seat deficit heading into Election Day (44-56) into a 20-seat advantage (60-40).

Never before in the history of Iowa elections have Republicans won a majority of seats in the Iowa House while Democrats won a majority of the Hawkeye State's U.S. House seats.

On one occasion - the 47th General Assembly after the 1936 election - Republicans and Democrats tied at 54 seats each in the 108-seat lower chamber, while Democrats won 5 of 9 U.S. House races.

Since the birth of the Republican Party with the 6th General Assembly in 1856, Republicans have won a majority of seats for the Iowa House of Representatives in 66 of 79 election cycles, with Democrats coming out on top just 12 times, with the first not coming until the 1932 Democratic wave.

Taken together, Braley, Loebsack, and Boswell made history - holding their seats in the face of a GOP storming of the State House and the governor's mansion.

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1 Comment


  • IMO, the most significant election result from Iowa was the rejection of three incumbent State Supreme Court justices ... considering the hard work by Bob Vander Platts to get the message to target the justices and combined that with the attack ads funded by America Future Fund, it is surprising that Bruce Braley survived.

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    Remains of the Data

    Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

    Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

    Political Crumbs

    Haugh to Reach New Heights

    The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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