President Donald Trump has held campaign rallies in Iowa. His visits have signaled how important the state has become in the presidential race, and coincides with a host of struggles many residents are facing.
In 2016, candidate Trump won Iowa by nine points, leaving many pundits thinking it wouldn’t be competitive in 2020. But the polls have tightened, and the Hawkeye State now is viewed as a toss up, a few hours before the election.
University of Northern Iowa political scientist Donna Hoffman said Iowa actually has a history of being a swing state, just not as consistently as others.
This time around, she said, farmers, who still express strong support for Trump, have seen a mixed bag from trade policies. This summer’s derecho storm left Iowa fields flattened, reigniting concerns about the impacts of climate change.
She also noted that protests over systemic racism were very visible in Iowa this year, likely leading to more activity from marginalized voters.
Hoffman said the pandemic factor also could be playing a role in the tight polling results. Iowa still is among the states with higher coronavirus infection rates. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a staunch supporter of the president, has come under fire for her response to the crisis.
Trump himself has been criticized by opponents and health officials for not fully embracing mask use or carrying out a consistent message on the virus.
Meanwhile, Hoffman said, it will be interesting to see the impact of an executive order signed by Reynolds this year, restoring the voting rights of convicted felons. Prior to the move, Iowa was the last state to still have such a ban.
An Iowa election analysis is online at cookpolitical.com.