A generally blue poll

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

The highly respected Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll had good news and bad news over the weekend, depending on your perspective. First, the poll confirms that Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, is in deep political trouble trailing Theresa Greenfield, D-Des Moines, by three percentage points. Second, the poll shows Democrats are solidly favored in generic match-ups in three congressional races, but the generic Democrat trails badly in our Fourth District.

This is quite a fall for Ernst, who enjoyed approval ratings above 60% a couple years ago. By last fall, her net approval rating had sunk underwater. She was one of the three most unpopular Republican senators up for re-election, with the Senate on the verge of flipping blue. It was completely because of President Donald Trump, whom Ernst endorses, cowers before and congratulates at every turn — while he destroyed our export markets, snuffed out the ethanol industry, and terrorized immigrants with what we believe are human rights violations. None of that really settles well in Iowa. It was nothing Ernst has done, because she has done nothing but stand by and smile. Then came the pandemic. State government, run entirely by Republicans, has proven itself incompetent. We still haven’t tested or traced entirely the virus that infects Storm Lake at the highest rate in America.

Greenfield is out-working Ernst, raising more funds, and already TV ads tying her to Trump are saturating the airwaves (from a group of Republicans called the Lincoln Project). The ads are running against Greenfield as well, trying to portray her as hostile to poor people. That dog won’t hunt. The polls reflect it.

Other, earlier polls suggested the race was a dead heat. The Iowa Poll tells us that it is so, and for now momentum is with Greenfield.

JD SCHOLTEN had to gulp when he saw results showing a generic Republican leading a nameless Democrat in the poll, 57-35%. The Sioux City Democrat came within three points of Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in 2018. Scholten thought he could beat King the second time around. State Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, got there first, defeating King easily in the June 2 primary. The GOP had grown tired of King, we suppose, but Feenstra is more of the same with a smile instead of a snarl.

Turnout in the primary set a record. Turnout among Democrats and Republicans will be all-out for the general election in November. We assume it also will be high among independents. Scholten will need to take a super-majority, over 60% for certain, to overcome the strong Republican registration advantage over Democrats in Northwest Iowa. The poll indicates that Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque, Rep. Cindy Axne of Des Moines and Rita Hart of Clinton, all Democrats, have the advantage in their congressional races.

There could be a blue wave big enough for Scholten to ride. The Iowa Poll suggests it has not crested yet.

A good moment devolves

One day last week the Iowa Legislature did something stunning: On a unanimous vote in the House, a police reform bill was sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds that was crafted on a bipartisan basis and directly answered recent protests. The bill is substantial, for example barring chokeholds and keeping bad officers from shuffling between departments. It was a moment of pride in Iowa.

A day later they were back to fighting. Republicans fought absentee balloting, fanned division over abortion, and ignored restoring felon voting rights (which should have been part of the police reform drive). The GOP-controlled legislature passed a stand-pat budget and decided to pay pandemic expenses out of emergency funds, kicking draconian decisions to the next legislature. These huge decisions were made in the wee hours of Sunday morning when nobody was watching. The legislators then ended the session, stalled since March, and went home after that confusing display.

It remains unclear how legislators intend to run on that record in the November election. It will be hard to defend. What could have been a moment of real progress driving from that police reform bill sputtered into the same partisan drivel that had people disgusted with government long before the pandemic.

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