Government

GOP: Election tight because Iowa has 'always been purple'

Dems: This year's election tight because of Trump

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, speaks at the Oct. 3 Iowa Ideas conference in Cedar Rapids last ye
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, speaks at the Oct. 3 Iowa Ideas conference in Cedar Rapids last year. On Friday, he said the tight political races this year are due to Iowa being a “purple state” and not predictably Democratic or Republican in its voting. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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JOHNSTON — Joni Ernst won Iowa by 8 percentage points in 2014 and Donald Trump won the state by 10 points in 2016.

Yet in their reelection bids in Iowa, Trump is clinging to a narrow lead over Democrat Joe Biden, and Ernst is trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in the U.S. Senate race, according to the most recent polls.

Chalk it up to Iowa’s historical purple-state voting tendencies, says Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.

Chalk it up to Trump, says Mark Smith, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

The two state party chairmen discussed the 2020 elections Friday morning during the taping of this weekend’s “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.

“We’ve always been purple,” Kaufmann said, referring to Iowa’s history of favoring both Republicans and Democrats in statewide elections.

“I remember after some successes we had in 2014 and 2016, there were national reporters trying everything they could to get me to say that we were red. And I said, ‘We’re purple.’

“We are a swing state. And elections here are never going to be taken for granted at any level, and this is going to be another bruising battle.”

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Smith said the 2020 election is a referendum on Trump, and that’s why Republicans find themselves in close races in Iowa.

“This election is very competitive this year because of the failed policies of Donald Trump, that he came to Iowa four years ago running for president and promised a lot of things that would be beneficial for Iowans,” Smith said.

Smith became state party chairman earlier this year after former Chairman Troy Price resigned in the wake of the 2020 Iowa caucuses. Iowa Democrats were unable to report official results on caucus night or in the days immediately after because of technological issues with a new reporting app.

Due to that confusion and a historically close margin, most media outlets did not declare a winner of the Democratic caucuses.

According to the state party’s official results, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., edged Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the most state delegate equivalents, but enough disputed results remain to change that razor-thin outcome. Both candidates have endorsed Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Iowa Democrats pledged to conduct an internal investigation into what went wrong with their caucuses and the reporting app.

“That (investigation) still is in process, and we’re still looking at that,” Smith said. “We’ll have a report here in the coming weeks. … The report will be an analysis of what went wrong, and, as a result of what went wrong, we will then be looking at what changes we need to make in the process.”

To watch

“Iowa Press” can be seen on Iowa PBS at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday and at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on Iowa PBS World. The episode is posted online at iowapbs.org/iowapress

Comments: (563) 333-2659; erin.murphy@lee.net

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