Ernst gives victory speech in Des Moines, IA
Ernst gives victory speech in Des Moines, IA

There is no doubt that last night’s landmark victories for Republicans was an absolute rejection of President Barack Obama’s agenda.  Republicans won back control of the U.S. Senate picking up at least seven seats in the U.S. Senate with a possible eight or nine seats with the Alaska and Louisiana U.S. Senate races still to be called.

Republicans in Iowa’s federal races had a phenomenal night as well.  Some Democrats will have to eat crow today after calling the Des Moines Register’s polls outliers.  The showed how the undecided vote was breaking and it wasn’t to Congressman Bruce Braley.

Ernst beat Braley by approximately 95,000 votes winning 52.2% to 43.7% helping Republicans win back the majority of the U.S. Senate.   Ernst won 85 counties out of 99.  The 14 counties she lost, with the exception of Polk and Story counties, were in eastern Iowa.  Ernst ran an effective campaign that was pretty much gaffe-free.  She was also a hard-working candidate campaigning across the state making it to all 99 counties.  You can’t say the same about Bruce Braley.

The issues were in Ernst’s favor as well.  Exit polling I’ve seen nationally indicate that voters were mostly concerned about the economy, health care, foreign policy and illegal immigration all of which President Obama has received large disapproval rates over.

Now U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will have someone who will complement him instead of canceling out his vote for Iowa.

Republicans picked up 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives one of which being in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District race.  Dubuque businessman Rod Blum edged out State Representative Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) by a little more than 7,000 votes – 51.2% to 48.8%.  He won 15 of the district’s 20 counties, winning the same counties Ernst did with the exception of Winnesheik County.  This race provided the greatest contrast between opponents in Iowa’s Congressional races (yes that even includes Steve King’s race).  The key in this race was the independent vote that favored Blum.  Murphy was tied to President Obama’s and Bruce Braley’s agenda, and independents were overwhelmingly rejecting that.  It’s interesting to note that Braley fared worse in the district he represents than Murphy did (at least by the number of counties won).

In Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District race David Young (R-Van Meter) retained the seat vacated by retiring Congressman Tom Latham (R-Iowa).  Young beat former State Senator Staci Appel (D-Indianola) by slightly more than 10 points, just shy of 30,000 votes – 52.9% to 42.3%.  He won 15 of the district’s 16 counties.  Appel won Polk County, but only by less than a 2,000 vote margin or 1.9%.  Young may have very well would have swept the district, but the Libertarian candidate pulled 3.1% of the Polk County vote and independent candidate Bryan Holder claimed 1.5% of the vote.

Young, like Blum and Ernst, rode a Republican wave that carried them to Washington, DC.

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) cruised to an easy reelection victory over his Democrat challenger Jim Mowrer winning 37 of Iowa 4th Congressional District’s 39 counties.  Not surprisingly King did not win Story County or Cerro Gordo County.  He beat Mowrer by a little more than 64,000 votes – 61.7% to 38.3%.  His reelection was never in doubt.  Iowa’s 4th Congressional District led the way in the Republican Party of Iowa’s early voting push, and registration numbers just do not favor Democrat candidates.  Yet liberals enjoy spending money in King’s district in their fantasy of toppling the 65-year-old Congressman who has served in the U.S. House since 2003.  This year Congressman King’s upped his fundraising that allowed him to place positive ads which countered the negative ads running against him.

The lone Congressional loss for Republicans in Iowa was in the 2nd Congressional District race.  In Iowa, the Republican wave did not translate into beating incumbents.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) defeated Mariannette Miller-Meeks by a little more than 13,000 votes – 52.5% to 47.5%.  Miller-Meeks won more counties than Loebsack – 16 counties compared to Loebsack’s six, but Loebsack won the population centers in the district.  Miller-Meeks did not experience any coattails from Ernst as Ernst outperformed her in the district winning counties such as Jasper, Scott, and Wapello that Miller-Meeks lost.

This was Miller-Meeks’ third time losing to Loebsack, and she was not able to decrease the margin of victory.  In 2010 Loebsack beat Miller-Meeks by a little more than 11,000 votes.  While Miller-Meeks campaigned well, Republicans may have been better served by nominating someone new.

The Republican wave did not make it down to the state races in Iowa.  Governor Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) easily won reelection beating State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) by almost 246,000 votes – 59.1% to 37.3%.  Branstad, who will be the longest serving Governor in U.S. History with a 6th term, was the heavy favorite.  Hatch proved to be an inept challenger that even Democrats could not rally around.  Hatch was unable to put forward a positive agenda that rivaled Branstad’s accomplishments.  Had State Representative Tyler Olson (D-Cedar Rapids) not experienced a divorce that led to him dropping out of the race it may have been tighter as the younger Olson was the up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party, not Hatch.

The Republican wave at the national level, nor Branstad’s coattails, was sufficient in helping Republicans topple incumbents in other statewide races or change the make-up of the Iowa Senate.  Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald beat their Republican challengers, Adam Gregg and Sam Clovis, by comfortable margins.  Republican incumbents, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, easily won their races.  Republican Paul Pate edged out Democratic operative Brad Anderson in Iowa’s Secretary of State Race by a little more than 21,000 votes – 48.5% to 46.6%.

Republicans padded their majority in the Iowa House by picking up four additional seats to hold a 57 to 43 majority when the Iowa Legislature gavels in.  Republicans swung five Democrat seats, but lost one seat as well.  Republicans won in HD 12 where Brian Best beat State Representative Dan Muhlbauer (D-Manilla).  The GOP also had a pick-up in HD 30 where Zach Nunn beat State Representative Joe Riding (D-Altoona).  Republican Darrel Brauhagen won an open seat vacated by Democrat State Representative Roger Thomas (D-Elkader) in HD 55.  Republican challenger Ken Rizer unseats State Representative Daniel Lundby in HD 68, and Former Republican State Representative Ross Paustian won his seat back from State Representative Frank Wood in HD 92.  Democrats won the open seat in HD 15 vacated by retiring State Representative Mark Brandenburg (R-Council Bluffs) when Charlie McConkey beat John Blue.

The make-up of the Iowa Senate stays exactly the same with the Democrats holding a slim 26 to 24 majority.  Out of the 25 seats up this election cycle fourteen were held by Democrats.  Only four of those seats were in districts where Republicans could be competitive.  Senate District 15 provided one of the best opportunities for Republicans to pick up a seat when State Senator Dennis Black announced his retirement however Mayor Chas Allen (D-Newton) beat Republican Crystal Bruntz in that race.  Former Hampton Mayor Shawn Dietz (R) fell short in his challenge of State Senator Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City) in SD 27.  Also James Budde was unable to unseat State Senator Tod Bowman (D-Makoqueta).

Republicans did pick-up Senate District 5’s seat when Tim Kraayenbrink defeated State Senator Daryl Beall (D-Ft. Dodge), but lost the seat held by retiring State Senator Sandy Griener in SD 39 when Democrat Kevin Kinney beat Michael Moore.  So State Senator Michael Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) will remain as Senate Majority Leader.

Iowa experienced a change in their representation in Washington, DC, but in Des Moines much will remain the same.

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