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How this onetime battleground state in heartland America turned bright red


Iowa has gone from purple to deep red.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa on Friday signed into law a controversial bill passed earlier this week by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature that sharply limits abortion.

The bill, which would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, is the latest example of Iowa Republicans flexing their muscles in a state that over the past dozen years has transformed from a crucial general election battleground to solidly red, with the GOP in control of the governor’s office, both legislative chambers in the statehouse and Iowa’s entire congressional delegation.

Reynolds has signed laws this year that ban or significantly limit gender transition treatments for minors, allow families to use taxpayer money towards private-school tuition and loosen child labor rules in the state, as the GOP works to turn the onetime swing state into a bastion of conservatism.


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign controversial abortion ban

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has led the state GOP to numerous conservative legislative victories as the state trends red. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

“Americans are taking notice as states around the country are looking to Iowa as a beacon for freedom and opportunity,” the governor wrote in a statement this spring as she touted what she described as an “historic” legislative session.

It wasn’t that long ago that Democrats were competitive in the state, controlling the governor’s office for a dozen straight years and one of the two U.S. Senate seats for three straight decades. But Democrats haven’t won a gubernatorial election since 2006 or a Senate contest since 2008. 


In the race for the White House, former President Barack Obama carried Iowa by nearly 10 points in 2008 and by six points in 2012. But four years later, former President Donald Trump captured the Hawkeye State by nine points in his White House victory. Trump carried Iowa by eight points in 2020 in his re-election defeat.

Last November, the sole remaining Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation went down to defeat.

Donald Trump rally in Iowa

Former President Donald Trump greets supporters before speaking at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Nov. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“There has been remarkable change in the political makeup of the state,” veteran Iowa-based Democratic consultant Jeff Link told Fox News.

Link spotlighted that “what has changed the most is there was significant shift in the counties along the Mississippi River that were traditionally Democratic strongholds. They were counties that had lots of organized labor and those are the places that have had the biggest change.”

David Kochel, a longtime Republican consultant and veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns in Iowa and nationally, also pointed to “the migration of White working-class voters from the old Democratic Party coalition, which included a lot of labor and blue-collar workers.”

“As the Democratic Party became more progressive, those White working-class voters migrated into the Republican Party,” added Kochel, a former Iowa GOP executive director.

Kochel spotlighted Howard County in northeastern Iowa, which he noted “had the largest swing from Obama and Trump of any county in the country.”

“We traded some votes. There were some suburban, moderate, voters that might have moved a little bit left, but replacing them was a much larger number of White working-class voters,” he added.

Iowa abortion bill protest

Iowa Democrat Jennifer Konfrst speaks to protesters rallying at the Iowa Capitol rotunda in opposition to the new ban on abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy introduced by Republican lawmakers in a special session on Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Democrats hope that the new abortion law will help boost their chances in next year’s legislative and congressional elections in Iowa.

But Link argued that Iowa Democrats need “to focus on improving their voter registration number, which is not something the party has ever done before. But that is key because you just can’t persuade enough independents where we are right now to have enough of an impact. So you literally have to register more Democratic voters.”


And he urged that Democrats “need to not only travel to all the counties in the state, but we need to listen to voters in those places and not just write them off. I think that’s what’s happened from time to time, and it’s a strategy that’s a disaster.”

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Caleb Alexander

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