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Iowa is still competitive!

By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science

As Lou Jacobson’s latest column in “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” shows, the approval rating of governors exceeds that of the president in 47 states. The reasons for the mismatch, according to Jacobson, likely stem from the credit governors receive for state economic conditions as well as the ability (and often the necessity) of governors to govern broadly.

But data from Lou’s table can also be used in another way. Rather than subtracting the president’s net approval from the governor’s net approval, as Lou did, I added the two numbers (see the table below). I also restricted my analysis to states won by Trump in 2016 with Republican governors to get a sense whether the president might be vulnerable in so-called “Republican” states.


As shown in the table, Iowa stands out. Partisan divisions within the state and the rural-urban divide continue to make Iowa competitive for any statewide race. So while several polling organizations rate Iowa as “lean GOP” (as opposed to “toss-up”), it seems a case can still be made that Iowa is a state to watch in 2020.

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