Iowa's Upcoming Series of Flips
Iowa's legislature is playing with fire, and they might not even be aware of it.
Iowa has four congressional districts. All are currently represented by Republicans. Only one(IA04) has the numbers to be considered "safe" from the possibility of getting flipped to Democratic control, with the Cook Political Report assessing its partisan lean to a sixteen point advantage by the GOP, and its incumbent Randy Feenstra is running unopposed in the primary. Lightning does sometimes strike, but I would say that Randy Feenstra holding Iowa-04 is one of the safest bets you can make for 2024.
But the other three districts are assessed with Republican advantages of no greater than four points-- two at R+3 and one at R+4. Cook, Sabato, and Gonzales all rate these races with terms like, "Solid," "Likely," "Lean," and "Tilt" to all say they are relatively safe from the danger of a Democratic flip. Their 2024 elections are expected to be competitive, but with a decided Republican advantage.
But just like in 2022, I think the predictors are all missing the effect that a crucial element will have in Iowa.
Conservative lawmakers in the Hawkeye state are cooking up a ballot question with the extremely wordy name, "Iowa No State Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment," which will enshrine in the state's Constitution the explicit lack of a right to abortion by anyone in the state. The Iowa House passed the Amendment in 2021, and the state Senate passed it the next day. They will have to pass it again in a 2024 session for the question to appear on the ballot for Iowans to vote on it.
This is an active effort by Iowa Republican activists, despite well-documented opposition that predates the June 2022 Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court that formally overturned Roe v. Wade, by over a year. All I can think of to explain this effort to jump off a cliff together is some internal polling the GOP might have that says that posing this question to voters in Iowa would not be disastrous for them. Though that seems unlikely. I think it’s more realistic that the pressure from various groups whose support is critical to the GOP's ongoing campaign funding is so great that the state legislature simply can't turn from this path now.
But if they pass the Amendment in 2024, and the question is put to the voters, I predict the backlash will be severe enough that not only will the Amendment be defeated by a highly motivated turnout, but that GOP representatives Miller-Meeks, Hinson, and Nunn(all three of whom have demonstrated and telegraphed that they would vote in favor of a national abortion ban) would also lose their seats, along with enough Republicans in the state House and Senate to flip them to Democratic control. I think it would also cost Gov. Reynolds her office if her term was up in 2024, but we have to wait for 2026 for that.
The nationwide right to abortion was rescinded in 2022. That fall, the GOP was expected to win Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. They were expected to flip the House of Representatives by dozens of seats. It is not a coincidence that they failed to flip the Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, and even lost a seat in Pennsylvania. It's not a coincidence that the GOP's razor-thin House victory can be accounted only by redistricting that has since been undone or compensated. The Dobbs decision turned what was supposed to be a red wave into a bare House victory that would prove even more embarrassing for the GOP in the ensuing term, as the Party made a sport of stepping on rakes.
Every question about abortion that's been posed to voters since the Dobbs decision-- in red states and blue --has ended in victories for abortion rights advocates. Going into 2024, this momentum will only build, as more and more states put the question to their voters. Already New York and Maryland have put abortion questions on their 2024 ballots. Iowa is poised to do so as well, along with Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and potentially more states. It is not looking good for the Grand Old Party, and I plan on exploring this more deeply as we get closer to the elections in 2024.
And this is to say nothing of the effect that a Trump Republican nominee would have on the election.