Who the heck lost Iowa?


Non-explanation appears: Who or what lost Iowa? Over at New York magazine, Ed Kilgore quite sensibly wants to find out.

Headline included, Kilgore's analysis starts like this. He's asking a very good question:

The Decline and Fall of Iowa Democrats

Not so very long ago, Iowa was a highly competitive battleground state...Iowa Democrats in particular seemed to punch above their weight, given the state’s agrarian heritage and small minority population. From 1988 through 2012, Democrats won six of seven presidential elections in Iowa, and only lost in 2004 by a whisker. In his successful elections in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama did better in Iowa than he did nationally. Democrats controlled one of two U.S. Senate seats from Iowa for the three decades of Tom Harkin’s time in office, and held the governorship from 1999 to 2011.

But Iowa Democrats have had a hard time since then, thanks to a combination of demographics and human error—probably the former more than the latter.

Indeed, Iowa Dems have gone belly-up since Obama's two victories in the state. In these numbers, you see a somewhat puzzling pattern:

Iowa presidential races, 2000 - 2020
2000: Gore beats Bush by 0.3 points
2004: Bush beats Kerry by 0.7 points
2008: Obama beats McCain by 9.5 points
2012: Obama beats Romney by 5.8 points
2016: Trump beats Clinton by 9.4 points
2020: Trump beats Biden by 8.2 points

For all such data, start here.

In those numbers, you see the situation which Kilgore has described. To wit:

In 2000 and 2004, this was a stone-cold toss-up battleground state. Obama then swept to a pair of fairly easy wins, followed by a reversal to Trump as Iowa went bright red.

It's hard to know how to explain this rapid change in the weather. Annoyingly, it's hard to tag the state as racist, given Obama's two wins. 

But good lord! From Obama's win in 2008 to Trump's coronation eight years later, a 19-point reversal occurred! Here's the start of Kilgore's eventual analysis, which strikes us as a bit of a non-explanation:

KILGORE (4/11/22): So what’s the basic problem bedeviling Iowa Democrats? While you can blame this or that setback or mistake, the underlying issue is demographic, as I noted in 2016, when Trump was leading handily in all the Iowa polls:

"Iowa, once a classic blue-leaning battleground state (it went for Obama handily in 2008 and 2012), is moving toward the GOP and particularly Trump because of its high concentration of conservative white working-class voters and its small minority population. To put it another way, Democrats in both presidential and state elections have had to rely in Iowa (as in other Upper Midwestern states) on winning a relatively high percentage of the white vote. The “Obama Coalition” in its full glory just doesn’t exist there. And as Democratic support among white voters—especially evangelicals, and especially non-college-educated people—has gradually eroded, it has gradually made Iowa more hospitable to Republicans …

"Donald Trump with his very blunt appeal to white working-class voters is a custom-made candidate for Iowa in a general election."

According to Kilgore, Iowa is moving toward the GOP—and has done so remarkably quickly—"because of its high concentration of conservative white working-class voters and its small minority population." But the state had that same demographic profile back in 2008 and 2012, when Obama won each time.

Iowa has turned red fast. As he continues, Kilgore says a similar pattern has obtained in Indiana.

Our tribe is always eager to blame such things on the racists. In this case, the Hawkeye State gave Obama two easy wins, complicating any such preferred analysis.

Obama won the state with ease. We ask a very important question:

Since then, what has changed? What explains the way a pro-Obama state turned bright red so fast?


  1. "...the underlying issue is demographic, as I noted in 2016"

    Bullshit and braindead dembottery.

    The underlying issue is that your sponsors, your masters -- globalist banksters -- are destroying the country.

    And flyover states suffer more than the coastal ones. Not much international banksterism and hedge-fundsterism in Iowa...

    1. Well, who fits?:

      Wall Street
      Right Wingers
      Right Wing Fascists
      Venture Capitalists
      Finance Industry

      but our little friend does not mean THOSE globalists, they mean: JEWS

    2. Which part isn't clear to you, dear Ilya?

      Anywho, using non-dembot search engines (yandex?) you should be able to find plenty of opinion articles on the subject.

      Here's a couple of random pieces, for your reading pleasure:


      ...and we're confident that you're perfectly capable of finding more, if so desired...

    3. Mao,
      Trump probably should have nationalized the oil companies, instead of giving them a HUGE tax break.
      You are correct, however, that Trump will still have a chance to regain the Presidency in the next election, because all the Republican voters who care about globalization, and not just bigotry and white supremacy, will never vote for him again.

    4. Mao, In what way has the GOP, according to you, been less favorable to "globalist banksters" than the dems? What did the GOP do to reign in these globalist bankers when they controlled the executive and legislative branches? Cut taxes for the rich? appoint Scalia type judges to SCOTUS? anything else. I'm curious as to your thoughts.

    5. Mao:

      It's kind of ironic that on a website that critiques tribal tropes -- pardon the alliteration -- you would be posting this sort of accepted tribal tripe. This is what Chomsky called "concision", i.e. where each discussion starts out predicated on certain accepted doctrines, which are never examined. The questions, just based on your very short statement here -- and I am probably giving it way too much consideration -- are:
      1. Whose sponsors and what are they sponsoring?
      2. Whose masters? And in what sense are they masters?
      3. What's a globalist banker?
      4. In what way are they destroying the country?

      Not that there isn't a grain of truth in this nonsensical word salad of a sentence; there's always a grain of truth in every conspiratorial rant. It's just that it needs to be normalized that normal humyns can discuss it.

    6. @Ilya, why don't you read the articles I linked?

      @AC/MA, why don't you read the post? They voted for Demigod Barry (hope!!! change!!!). He fucked them up. So, now they vote for anti-establishment populists.

      What's so complicated here?

    7. so what did the anti-establishment populists do that reigned in the globalist banksters? the so-called renegotiation of NAFTA? You ducked my question, seemingly because you can't answer it.

    8. Y'know what they say, dear AC/MA: one fool can ask more questions than a hundred wise men can answer.

      The fact is that GOP is currently perceived (thanks to The Commander) as the party of the working class. Your opinion that it's undeserved is utterly irrelevant, for several reasons, one of 'em being that you, obviously, don't belong.

  2. "Since then, what has changed? What explains the way a pro-Obama state turned bright red so fast?"

    Somerby pretends that Kilgore has not answered the question, but the answer is right there in the quote itself:

    "But Iowa Democrats have had a hard time since then, thanks to a combination of demographics and human error—probably the former more than the latter."

    What are the demographic changes? First, there is a decline in college educated young people as they have moved out of rural areas. Second, there has been an erosion of support for unions and a rapid decrease in union jobs in the state. Those two conditions have led to an increase in conservatism and racism evidenced in support for Trump and a decrease in support for Biden in 2020 (compared to Obama). Democratic candidates have had trouble finding funding and there is a belief that a black candidate cannot win in the state (Deidre DeJear is running for governor).

    Somerby says: "But the state had that same demographic profile back in 2008 and 2012, when Obama won each time."

    This is not true. The decline in more educated younger voters and union workers has occurred since Obama's two elections.

    Then Somerby says: "Our tribe is always eager to blame such things on the racists."

    Trump made promises he couldn't keep to union workers and those in declining industries. Unlike Hillary, he didn't tell the truth to his constituents. That may have affected her support, but the bottom line for those supporting Trump was not jobs but racism and sexism. Democrats, including Biden and Obama, have always created more jobs than Republicans but white Trump voters respond to his bigoted appeals.

    Somerby's argument about Obama's record negating racism as an explanation only works if you ignore the actual demographic changes that have occurred. I don't know whether Kilgore omitted the details of that demographic shift or if Somerby simply didn't quote the whole story, but the changes in the state correspond to a demographic shift that more closely resembles Trump's base in other states. The Obama voters went away -- that's what it means to suffer a demographic shift. Those voters live somewhere else now.

    That's what has changed. Five minutes using Google could have given Somerby the answer to his question (assuming Kilgore didn't). Instead, Somerby prefers his narrative, that Trump voters cannot be a bunch of bigots because someone voted for Obama in Iowa.

    1. https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2022-04-11/iowas-political-swing-makes-obamas-wins-harder-to-repeat

    2. Here is what happened in 2012, an election that Somerby claims was easily won by Obama:

      "President Obama narrowly won the six electoral votes in Iowa, one of the most contested states and the place he credited with igniting his unlikely rise to the presidency.

      Mitt Romney spent substantial resources in Iowa early in the primary season and made another big push in the state heading into the election.

      In the House, Representative Steve King, a Tea Party firebrand who was first elected in 2002, held on to his seat, fending off a stiff challenge from the Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of Tom Vilsack, the current United States secretary of agriculture and a former Iowa governor.

      Redistricting in the state caused two longtime congressmen to face off against each other in the Third District. In one of the country’s hardest-fought races, Representative Tom Latham, a nine-term Republican, defeated Representative Leonard L. Boswell, an eight-term Democratic incumbent, by a narrow margin.

      During his campaign, Mr. Latham openly disagreed with Mr. Romney, who had created problems for the state’s Republicans by opposing subsidies for wind power, a big industry in Iowa. Mr. Boswell was hampered by problems with fund-raising, and had to rely on Mr. Obama’s extensive operations in the state."

      Redistricting, Romney's blunder on wind power, and fund-raising problems affected the numbers. The narrowness of Obama's win shows that the demographic changes were already occurring.


    3. If you listened to RW hate radio, lead by Rush Limpdick, you would have understood that his audience despised Romney and McCain and stayed home. They sat it out. When the orange abomination hit the scene, it electrified the RW hate radio audience and they ran to the polls to pull the lever for the racist bastard. This ain't brain surgery.

    4. Yes, there was a huge turnout for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

  3. If you want to find out why Trump voters support Trump, look at the polls of Trump voters directly, not Obama's past election returns.

    It is always about the racism and sexism. Trump didn't even bother to run on a platform in 2020 -- just bigotry. Build the Wall and Lock her Up are not exactly programs either.

    Somerby's reasoning here is a joke. Pretending Trump is not a bigot who appeals to other bigots is an even bigger joke.

  4. Comments to the Kilgore article included this:

    "Considering that on Iowa every store, every dinner, every restaurant, any business has Fox news on all the time, the brainwashing caught up with the populace."

  5. Why is there no link to the Kilgore article in Somerby's essay?

    1. Why can't you Google it?

    2. I did, it is behind a paywall too.

      But this illustrates another difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives, with Trump's example and permission, have been ignoring many customs and traditions in and out of politics, making this a less civil society. They don't seem to care about anyone but themselves because Ayn Rand?

      Small things such as mentioning your source when you quote are how one does things among the educated. Perhaps Somerby is being consciously anti-intellectual again, or perhaps he just forgot, but the end result is to make life more difficult for others.

      Or maybe Somerby hears his mother's voice in that of a long ago teacher who nagged him to do such things? Regardless of motive, who goes around doing that in an ostentatious, in-your-face manner? Conservatives, not liberals. Assholes in pickup trucks who roll coal and wear their covid masks around their chin without covering anything important.

      Over at Kevin Drum's they are arguing about why men should have to put the seat down in a mixed-gender bathroom, though, so maybe men tend to use uncivility to repair a weak sense of their own masculinity.

  6. From the NAEP website on Iowa math scores:

    "In 2019, Black students had an average score that was 31 points lower than that for White students. This performance gap was wider than that in 2000 (16 points)"

    "wider than that in 2000", uh yeah, the gap doubled!

    While CA and LAUSD successfully worked on closing the Black/White gap, Iowa was doubling theirs.

    Yet Somerby used the CA scores to "prove" his nonsense about CA not being actually progressive (totally ignoring things like the fact that the Black homeownership gap is one of the lowest in CA).

    Indeed, it does seem like Iowa has a racism problem, look at those horrible scores!

    Right wingers like Somerby live and breathe hypocrisy.

  7. A story in the Times gave several culprits for Iowa going Republican. There seemed to have been wishful thinking that Trump's boasts and overpromises would translate into real material concerns being addressed. The economy there isn't great. The school system is showing signs of white flight. Add to that abortion to scare the religious women, and the unions getting less respect and attention than they would like by the Democratic Party.

  8. Not to overstate the obvious, but there's just not enough data here for any meaningful statistical analysis.