CEDAR RAPIDS — The old saw that “your vote matters” may sound cliché, but this year it may be more true than ever in Iowa than anywhere in the country.
As the 2020 election cycle comes to a close, candidates are barnstorming the state to win every vote possible in races that appear too close to call.
That gives Iowa voters what University of Northern Iowa political scientist Chris Larimer believes is a unique opportunity. Voters, especially in the U.S. House 1st District, will be deciding at least three important tossup races where every vote will matter, he said.
The stakes of every election are high, Larimer said, because elections have consequences in terms of the direction of public policy.
“There are always questions about ‘Does my vote really matter?’ Yes, it absolutely does,” Larimer said.
That’s because the top three races in Iowa — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and Democrat Theresa Greenfield and 1st District Rep. Abby Finkenauer and Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson — have been rated as tossups for much of the campaign cycle.
“So the first three races you’re voting in are extraordinarily competitive,” Larimer said. “The entire country is looking at them. All the national media are looking at these races.”
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That hasn’t been lost on those candidates. Biden was in Iowa Friday. Trump visited Sunday and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, was in Des Moines Monday.
Ernst and Greenfield were on the move, too, to rally voters to the polls in the finals hours of the campaign,
Ernst was flying around Iowa to remind voters that she’s never forgotten who she is, where she came from and who she’s working for.
“Through my years of service, whether it’s been in public elected office or serving in the Iowa Army National Guard, I have never forgotten Iowa,” Ernst said, countering a Democratic message that Washington has changed her and she’s forgotten who she’s supposed to be working for in Congress.
“I will never forget where I’m from and I will never forget the people of Iowa — my family, my friends, my neighbors from all four corners of the state,” she said. “I am fighting for Iowa every single day.
Her challenger, Democrat Theresa Greenfield, also was traveling across Central and Eastern Iowa with stops in Black Hawk, Buchanan, Dubuque and Linn counties. Monday morning the Des Moines businesswoman was on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC to air her closing argument that’s she’s running to “put hardworking Iowans first.”
Health care is the number on issue on voters’ minds, Greenfield said, because “they can’t afford their premiums or deductibles. Seniors are getting gouged for prescription drugs. They’re worried about the rural hospitals staying open.”
“Of course, they know that Sen. Ernst voted to end the Affordable Care Act, which could close their hospitals and end their protections for preexisting conditions,” she added.
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Both sides claimed to have enthusiasm on their side and early voting seems to bear that out. More than 43 percent of Iowa voters have cast their ballots as of Monday morning, Secretary of State Paul Pate reported.
“The energy, the enthusiasm, the excitement, the momentum is on the Republican ticket,” she said. “We’ve seen this as we’ve crisscross the state. And now we need to turn that energy in that excitement. And we need to make sure that we finish strong with a strong ground game.”
In Cedar Rapids, enthusiasm for Trump’s reelection was manifest in what participants said was an impromptu 600-vehicle parade Sunday afternoon.
Trump, Ernst, Hinson and other Republicans are counting on a heavy Election Day turnout because Republicans haven’t participated in the 29 days of early voting as much as Democrats. GOP candidates head into Election Day trailing Democrats by tens of thousands of votes, according to the Secretary of State.
“Typically, Republicans turn out to the polls on Election Day and I’m sure we’re going to see that tomorrow,” Ernst said Monday during a Cedar Rapids stop on her statewide fly-around. “I really believe that the energy and enthusiasm you see in the crowds the last few days is going to carry through on Election Day.”
As of Monday morning, 43 percent of Iowa’s 2,245,097 registered voters had cast their ballots. Of the 955,971 who voted, 45 percent were by Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 21 percent no party voters, the Secretary of State said.
Pate also reported a record number of active registered voters seems to bear that out. Secretary of State Paul Pate reported Monday the number of active registered voters — those who have participated in recent elections — surpassed the previous record in the months following the 2016 election. More than 90 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters are registered, he said.
There are 2,095,581 active registered voters — 719,951 GOP, 699,001 Democrats and 676,989 others.
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