116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - On Tuesday, Election Day, the nation's eyes will be on Iowa.
As the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state, we're accustomed to such attention. But this is a midterm election. The next president will not be decided for another two years.
So why all the fuss?
It's simple. Iowans are electing someone to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate, and that outcome may determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years.
Democratic U.S. House member Bruce Braley of Waterloo and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak are vying to fill the seat left open by the retirement of longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Cumming.
The race is crucial not only to Iowans but to the entire nation, as many projections suggest the balance of power in the Senate rests on its outcome.
'It's increasingly likely that the uber-competitive Senate race in Iowa will determine control of the U.S. Senate,” read an NBC News story published online Thursday.
The U.S. Senate is under Democratic command. Republicans need to pick up six seats this week to change that, and there fewer than 10 races nationwide that are deemed truly competitive.
Republicans lead in Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana. Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas and North Carolina also are in play.
But the way polls are trending in those states, Iowa could very well make the difference.
'Bottom line, if you tell us who wins Iowa come Election Night, we'll have a very good idea of which party is going to win the Senate, even after the runoffs in December and January,” the NBC News story said.
The data-driven analysts at FiveThirtyEight.com agreed. The website is run by Nate Silver, the data analyst who correctly predicted the outcome of all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election.
'Senate Update: It could all come down to Iowa,” read a headline for a story published Oct. 23 on the website. The story said if Ernst wins tossup Iowa, Republicans would be able to absorb losses in other competitive races.
'That's why Iowa is key. If Republicans win it, then they can afford to lose Georgia and Kansas and win the majority without pulling off an unexpected victory in New Hampshire or North Carolina,” the story said. 'It's no mistake that Republican Joni Ernst's chance of winning in Iowa, 66 percent, is nearly the same as the 64 percent chance Republicans have at taking back the Senate.”
For the past four years, Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate have blocked each other's bills that they did not agree on. If Republicans take the Senate - they are likely to maintain control of the House - that party will control both chambers of Congress for the next two years with Democratic President Barack Obama in the White House.
That means Republicans would be able to pass legislation and send it to Obama, forcing the president to accept it or veto it.
Indeed, as one often hears on this campaign, there is a lot at stake in this election. That would at least partially explain the $80 million-plus spent on the Braley-Ernst race, making it the third-most expensive in the country, behind North Carolina and Colorado.