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Three things to watch in the Iowa Primaries

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

First, if fundraising and endorsements matter, then despite competition, several candidates should be expected to win (and avoid convention) tonight, including: Theresa Greenfield (Democratic primary for US Senate), Ashley Hinson (Republican primary for CD1), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Republican primary for CD2), and David Young (Republican primary for CD3). (Rita Hart is also expected to win the Democratic primary for CD2 but faces no opposition.) Given the amount of spending and attention, the Democratic primary for US Senate could be the closest of these races.

Second, incumbents for Congress rarely lose. In fact, since 2000, the average reelection rate for members of the U.S. House of Representatives is nearly 94 percent according to the Center for Responsive Politics. So, if Congressman King fails to win tonight (or fails to avoid a convention by not reaching the 35 percent mark), that will be a big deal. He may still win at convention, but tonight is the first data point we will get in terms of his support among party activists.

Finally, there is a real question on voter turnout. The traditional methods of campaigning and voter outreach have been completely upended by the covid-19 pandemic. The most effective way of reaching voters (personal contact in the form of door-to-door canvassing by volunteers or the candidates themselves) has been on hold since March. The Des Moines Register and the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office are reporting record number of absentee ballot requests and returns, so perhaps voters are adjusting to the new campaign environment.

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