Each day it becomes clearer electing Mariannette Miller-Meeks to the Congress was a mistake. Instead of supporting the president’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, on Aug. 26 she posted this partisan comment to her twitter account, “Joe Biden’s withdrawal of Afghanistan has been a failure and has ended with needless deaths and injuries. Joe Biden should resign as Commander-In-Chief!”
She expanded her view in her weekly newsletter. Thus far, Joe Biden is Teflon to her spam, paying little attention to her or any Republican criticisms. Biden did right by ending the war in Afghanistan.
The problem with Miller-Meeks is not the partisan sniping. She is not voting in the best interests of residents of her district. She voted against almost all of the bills designed to bring the country back from the brink of financial ruin and a catastrophic pandemic. The complete list of her no votes since being sworn in last January is pretty long, but here is a partial one: HR3684 Invest in America; HR1319 COVID Relief Act/American Rescue Plan; HR1280 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; HR1 For the People Act; and HR5 Equality Act.
Replacing Miller-Meeks with a less partisan member of congress who is willing to work for Iowans will not be a cake walk. Redistricting of the congressional districts lies ahead and while Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency, which draws the initial maps, is non-partisan, there could be changes in the political climate based on how LSA adjusts for population change reported by the last U.S. Census.
If we look at ten years of voting history in the current district, it’s clear a Democrat could win back this seat. Once the new map is created we’ll have to take another look. Luckily the Iowa Secretary of State has good data, down to the precinct level on the five congressional elections since the last redistricting in 2011. Another look based on new district organization is possible.
|2nd District||Republican||Democrat||Under vote||Total|
Of the 24 counties in the current Second District, four are solidly Democratic (Clinton, Jefferson, Johnson and Scott). Five flipped from Democratic to Republican in 2020 (Cedar, Des Moines, Lee, Muscatine and Wapello), and the other 15 voted consistently Republican. Republicans were aided by the decision of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to mail every voter an absentee ballot request form because of the coronavirus pandemic. In my view, this was a key factor in the Republican success in 2020.
Looking at the table, what stands out is “midterm drop off.” More people vote when there is a presidential race and the number of voters invariably drops off during the following midterm election. In addition, during the 2012, 2016 and 2020 elections there were significantly more under votes than in midterm elections in 2014 and 2018. That means a significant number of voters cast a ballot for president but didn’t bother to do so in the congressional race. People who are general election voters only are easily identifiable in the voter databases used by both Republicans and Democrats to conduct campaigns.
The key point about midterm drop off is that during the 2018 midterm, Democratic drop off was 14 percent, compared to 32 percent in 2014. I submit the primary cause of better voter turnout among Democrats in 2018 was having Donald Trump in the White House. He was a motivator for Democrats to turn out. That may also be the case for Republicans yet their midterm drop off in 2018 was 22 percent compared to 20 percent in 2014. The meaning is clear.
If Democrats continue to be highly motivated to vote in 2022, reducing midterm drop off, it could give them the votes needed to defeat Miller-Meeks. Without Trump on the ballot, Republicans would be expected to continue to experience midterm drop off similar to 2014 and 2018 or about 21 percent. These numbers should be re-calculated after redistricting but it is hopeful for Democratic prospects in this increasingly Republican district.
The Iowa Democratic Party studied feedback from the failures of 2020 and shared publicly two things that need to be done to win back seats in the Iowa legislature: centralized fundraising for candidates and year around political organizing staff. I have no comment about the former. Hiring permanent staff is a blessing and a curse. If staff can stay focused on 2022 and organize to get out Democratic voters the way we did in 2018, it will be worth it.
If you want to check my numbers, there is more information in the election data which is available at the Iowa Secretary of State website.
Christina Bohannan was endorsed by former Congressman Dave Loebsack on Monday. That means Bohannan is the establishment candidate in a state where establishment candidates usually win if there is a primary. How the congressional campaign organizes is important. What matters more is motivating Democrats to turn up at the polls and vote the whole ballot. Not only will that give us a fighting chance to take back the congressional seat, but will help in races up and down the ballot.
That’s the kind of political change we need.