Iowa is known for three things; the Hawkeyes, corn, and the Iowa Caucus. The Hawkeyes of course being the more successful football team than their inner-state rivals, the Cyclones of Iowa State, however, politics usually rule the day. Iowa is in the heart of the Corn Belt, a driving issue in state and national politics in Iowa. It is also home to the first installment of the primary season for presidential elections; also known as the Iowa Caucus. Iowa’s caucus is paramount for candidates to have a good showing as it is considered proving ground for presidential hopefuls, adding legitimacy to an underdog or solidifying a front-runner’s lead.
In the past four of five elections Iowa has broken Democratic, only going red for Bush 43’s re-election. However, Iowa has two Republican Senators, Sen. Chuck Grassley who’s served since 1981 and Sen. Joni Ernst who was just elected in 2015. Iowa currently has 6 electoral college votes, so it isn’t necessarily a state like Ohio or Florida that can change the election in an instant, however, with a strategy more along the lines of a 50 state plan, Iowa could be crucial in putting a candidate over the top.
The 2016 Iowa Caucus saw Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton take home the first place prize in their respective parties caucuses. On the Republican side, behind Cruz, Donald Trump came in a close second with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) coming in an unanticipated third place finish. Clinton held off Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) just enough to come in first place; however, Sanders did unexpectedly well, coming up short by just .3% of the vote. Cruz’s victory is of peculiar interest because he stated he wasn’t in favor of ethanol subsidies, a huge issue in Iowa, which would hurt corn farmers and their industry. Iowa is, however, a deeply religious state, an area of strength for Sen. Ted Cruz and could help to explain his victory. Sanders rode a lot of momentum out of the Iowa State and Iowa campuses to ignite his long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination.
Recent polling shows Iowa being a true toss-up. The RealClearPolitics (RCP) average has Trump up by .8% over Hillary Clinton. This is reflected by a recent poll by Simpson College and RABA Research showing Trump up by 1 point over Clinton; with a margin of error of 3 percent. Iowa will also choose to re-elect Sen. Grassley or his Democratic opponent Patty Judge. Grassley’s RCP average is at +8.6 percent, so he is looking at a pretty safe election. Iowa has four representatives in the House; three Republicans and one Democrat. All four of Iowa’s House Representatives are up for re-election and have an opposite party opponent. However, all four incumbents are expected to hold off their challengers.