TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022
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
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?