CEDAR FALLS — Things couldn’t have gone better Tuesday night for University of Northern Iowa student Regan Stevens.
In her first time voting for president, the 19-year-old Dubuque native watched her preferred candidate, President-elect Donald Trump, win nationally and in Iowa.
Stevens saw her hard work as a volunteer and as a turf organizer — working 30 hours a week for the last three months to elect Republicans — pay off.
“I just really feel like this is my ‘Reagan moment,’ ” said Stevens.
She was named after President Ronald Reagan because of the “patriotic feeling” her parents had for the 40th president. “I am ecstatic.”
She added, “So, hopefully, this is just a huge movement for our country, because he (Reagan) obviously went down in history as one of the best presidents ever.”
In Iowa, it seems much like 1980 all over again. Republicans saw gains, some of them massive shifts, in Tuesday’s election.
When the final vote is counted, Trump seems likely to beat Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points and more than 146,000 votes. Clinton won just six of Iowa’s 99 counties, grabbing
urban population centers like Black Hawk County.
That sort of margins haven’t been seen in Iowa since Reagan’s 12-point win in 1980 when he took all but four urban counties.
The margins didn’t just elect Trump: three of Iowa’s four members of Congress remain Republican, as will its two senators. The Iowa House increased its Republican majority, and the Iowa Senate has a Republican majority for the first time in years.
“Of course, we are very excited by Iowa’s role in electing Donald Trump to be our next president, and we are also sending (U.S. Sen.) Chuck Grassley and (U.S. Rep.) Rod Blum back to Washington,” Greg Tagtow, of the Black Hawk County Republicans, said in a post-election Facebook message. “All in all, an amazing night.”
Swing state will?
In Northeast Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, many who supported Democratic President Barack Obama in his re-election bid in 2012 and voted for Trump on Tuesday.
Republican Mitt Romney won just three of 20 counties in the 1st District in 2012. This year, just two of the 20 counties went for Clinton. That means 15 counties that voted Obama in 2012 and went for Trump in 2016.
Trump’s margins in some counties were greater than Obama’s 2008 victory.
Even in Black Hawk County, which Clinton won, her total was lower than Obama’s 2012 margin by about 9 points.
County Democrats’ message following the election was one of reflection and heartbreak.
“It will take some time to process; it is discouraging and too simplistic to say that fear, hate and desperation ruled the day,” read a message on the Black Hawk County Democrats’ Facebook page.
Though things seem bleak for Democrats, experts say Iowa remains a swing state. This time, it just swung toward Republicans.
“One data point does not make a trend,” said Donna Hoffman, University of Northern Iowa political science department head. “We remain a competitive state. Should the next election and the even next election continue this kind of a trend, then maybe we have something there. But this is an unusual election that simply confirms that Iowa is up for grabs.”
Hoffman said Iowa’s demographics may have played a role in the shift to Trump. His strongest support came from older, whiter and less-educated Americans, of which Iowa has a significant number.
Her colleague Justin Holmes agreed.
“There’s something in the air right now, and I think to the degree that this is a fairly temporary phenomenon ... as frankly were the two Obama victories,” Holmes said. “I have a feeling we are sort of a national bellwether.”
Holmes predicted the state swings in a slightly more Democratic direction in the future.
There was an Iowa swing toward Republicans, but Hoffman said that wave was missing nationally. Tuesday’s results were surprising, not just because of the outcome but also because some of the down-ballot implications.
“This did not make us a red country. It made us a divided country,” Hoffman said.
The national picture is complicated. While Trump won the electoral vote, Clinton will win the popular vote by as many 2 million votes and more than 1.5 percentage points, according to the New York Times and other analyses.
The winning presidential ticket usually has coattails to add to the party’s base in Congress. That didn’t happen this time, Hoffman said.
Republicans will still control both the U.S. House and Senate, but by slimmer margins. Republicans are expected to lose two Senate seats and six House seats.
There are more post-mortems to come, especially since so few polls correctly predicted Trump’s win and his relatively large electoral margins. He could win as many as 306 electoral votes, where 270 are needed to win.
Democrats are looking at why things turned out the way they did. Republicans will do the same.
“It looks like … Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s success in ‘12 and Trump outperformed Romney’s success, and that was the ballgame,” Hoffman said. She added the caveat that results are still pouring in and political scientists are still analyzing the results.
Stevens, meanwhile, is turning her attention back to school work. But she’ll continue working with the UNI College Republicans to reduce the “stigma” of being a Republican. And she’s still celebrating the incoming Trump presidency.
Though she was hopeful, Stevens saw the same polls as others did and heard the media often dismiss Trump. Now that Trump has won, she makes the same plea Trump and the outgoing Obama did; she hopes to see the country unify.
“I think people had such a bad idea of him, so if he can go out there and do what he said he’s going to do and really help everybody and just prove everybody wrong, that will be enough for me,” Stevens said.