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The Iowa State Fair: Our proactive primer on politics, pork and public officials

Political Theater Podcast, Episode 85

Politicians love to hang out at the Iowa State Fair, so that is where Political Theater will relocate next week to cover all the political races — for president, Senate and House — as well as various foods served on a stick. Here, Republican Rep. Steve King and future Sen. Joni Ernst hang out amid the pork at the Pork Tent in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Political Theater is heading to the Iowa State Fair to check out how the 2020 races for president and Senate and four competitive House contests are shaping up in this bellwether state. Why Iowa? Because that’s where the candidates are.

Bridget Bowman, our senior political writer, and Leah Askarinam of Inside Elections lay it all out for us on the latest episode of Political Theater. 

The Hawkeye State was one of those places that voted twice for Barack Obama, in 2008 and 2012, and then flipped to Donald Trump in 2016. 

Trump won it 51-42 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney 52-46 percent, and in 2008, Obama bested Sen. John McCain 54-44 percent. Important to keep in mind: Trump lost the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz, albeit narrowly, while Clinton beat Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, again narrowly. 

“Again, narrowly” could be the unofficial motto for Iowa, at least when it comes to politics. 

Sen. Joni Ernst is up for reelection, and as a Republican on the Senate leadership team, as well as someone who has occasionally distanced herself from the president, she is on a number of Democratic target lists. If Democrats are able to flip her seat, that would go a long way to providing them a path to the majority. 

All four House races are competitive in the 2020 cycle. 

In the 1st District, freshman Democrat Abby Finkenauer unseated Republican Rod Blum last fall, 51-46 percent. In 2016, Trump won the district 49-45 percent over Clinton. 

In the 2nd District, Democrat Dave Loebsack is retiring, opening up a competitive seat that Trump carried 49-45 percent.

In the 3rd District, freshman Democrat Cindy Axne defeated Republican Rep. David Young last year, 49-47 percent. Trump won the district 49-45 percent. (Feel like I’m repeating myself, no?)

And in the 4th District, Republican Steve King narrowly beat Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018, 50-47 percent, in a place where Trump romped to a 61-34 percent win over Clinton. 

How these five congressional races shake out will go a long way toward determining which party is in the majority in 2021. And who wins those races could depend a lot on who is running for president against Trump. We expect pretty much all of these people at the Iowa State Fair, which is why we will be there as well.

Oh, and we’re also going for the food, including, at last count, 69 different types of food on a stick. Oh, and Slipknot and Night Ranger are playing too. It’s going to be a hoot.

Show Notes: 

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