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MURPHY: Encouraging election for Republicans

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Last week’s elections results, both inside Iowa and beyond the state’s borders, appeared to project good news for Republicans looking ahead to next year’s midterms.

Some local races in Iowa and gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey suggest the political winds are shifting back in the GOP’s direction, just a year after the party lost the White House and U.S. Senate.

Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy

In those gubernatorial races, Republicans’ continued success in the rural areas should be concerning for Iowa Democrats, who cannot win a statewide race here without at least minimizing the losses they take in this state’s rural areas.

Also in those East Coast races, Republican candidates bounced back somewhat from the pounding they took in the suburbs in 2020.

There was a similar warning sign for Democrats in Iowa’s elections last week at the local level. Candidates aligned with Republican positions (remember that those local races are technically nonpartisan, so we can’t call them Republican candidates) fared well in several school board races in the Des Moines suburbs.

If those are emerging trends, then Democrats could be in trouble. If Iowa Democrats are unable to improve on their performance in rural Iowa and at least maintain some of the recent gains they’ve made in the suburbs, there is no way they can win statewide races and defeat the likes of Chuck Grassley or Kim Reynolds.

All that said, Republicans — to borrow a sports colloquialism — should not plan to just roll out their helmets and expect to win in 2022. One crucial element of next year’s midterm elections that will remain unknown right up until Election Day is what the electorate will look like. More specifically, whether former President Donald Trump’s supporters will turn out during an election when he is not on the ballot.

Trump fared well in Iowa in both 2016 and 2020, carrying the state both times, and down-ballot Iowa Republicans definitely benefited.

Will those same voters turn out and vote Republican again in 2022, when Trump is not on the ticket? If they stay home, that makes Iowa Republicans’ efforts that much harder. If they do turn out, electoral life gets a little easier for the GOP.

There will be much political analysis performed in the days and weeks ahead. Did Republicans have a message that better resonated with rural and suburban voters? (Think, for example, face mask requirements in schools.) Was it just the historical political headwinds of a new party in power facing difficult electoral prospects in its first election after taking power?

Those questions and many more will be examined as last week’s results are analyzed.

Election Day is still far off — almost exactly a year. There’s no guessing what the national mood will be like then, or what will be the most pertinent issues on the campaign trail. So no analysis or prediction this far out is a stone-cold lock.

But the latest results, at the very least, provided encouraging signs if you’re a Republican in Iowa and warning signs if you’re a Democrat.

The best of Erin Murphy

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The political divide in Iowa has been shrinking in recent election cycles, and the state is becoming far more red than blue, but Iowa remains politically purple in at least one area.

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"Two law enforcement leaders in Iowa recently engaged in a thoughtful discussion on the state of policing and racial justice. ... taken for what it is, it’s undoubtedly a conversation Iowans should hear."

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"The good news is almost anyone in Iowa who wants the COVID-19 vaccine can now get it any time they want. The bad news is that’s because demand for the vaccine has dropped precipitously."

Erin Murphy is the editor of the Lee Des Moines Bureau. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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