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Analysis: Hubbell-Reynolds showdown begins

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Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell speaks during an Iowa Primary night rally with supporters Tuesday in Des Moines.

DAVENPORT - Tuesday’s Iowa primary made it official: It'll be Fred Hubbell against Gov. Kim Reynolds this fall for the state's top job.

It wasn’t a terribly surprising result.

Hubbell, former head of the Equitable of Iowa life insurance company, has been leading in the polls, and since state Sen. Nate Boulton’s exit from the race, most political analysts figured this was Hubbell’s race to lose.

Now, the campaign moves to a new phase: the general election.

In some ways, we’ve already seen a foreshadowing of what it will be like.

Over the past few weeks, Hubbell has increasingly sounded less like someone in a primary scrap and more like he's looking toward the general election.

He’s appealed toward a broader middle, saying his party needs to reach across the aisle, including to Democrats who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Republicans, meanwhile, have been softening the ground for a line of attack that focuses on Hubbell’s wealth.

State GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann’s Twitter feed has been sprinkled with plenty of jabs about “Sir Frederick” or “Prince Frederick.”

The idea is clear: That Hubbell is out of touch with ordinary Iowans.

In her acceptance speech Tuesday night, the governor echoed that theme herself.

Hubbell, who has been traveling the state extensively throughout the primary campaign, has brushed aside the attacks. He told me recently he thought Kaufmann’s digs were "pretty lame." And he points to his philanthropy in the state, like helping to raise money during the 2008 flooding.

Still, this is likely to be a feature of the general election campaign, as the Reynolds camp rolls out the governor’s own story — the Iowa Story, as they call it — of having worked her way from being a checker at Hy-Vee and waitress at Younkers to being the first woman governor of a state that's excelling under her guidance.

Expect to hear a lot more about the state’s low unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the country, the newly approved tax cut and ratings that praise Iowa's quality of life.

Democrats, on the other hand, have spent months pushing back against the idea that all is well. They’ve pointed to state budget cuts, increasing college costs and reductions at the Department of Human Services, even as the number of child abuse cases has risen.

Hubbell has accused the governor of mismanagement. He's also pushed for boosting spending on education and reversing the privatization of Medicaid.

The sweeping changes the Republican-led legislature has approved the last two years (the new law prohibiting nearly all abortions, stripping public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights and the $2 billion tax cut) also will play a part in the campaign.

On Tuesday, the Democratic Governors Association issued a memo saying Reynolds has pushed an "aggressive and extreme right-wing agenda never before seen in Iowa history."

The Republican Governors Association praised her for "positive results-driven leadership.

Then there’s the money.

Already, it's looking like a record-breaking year.

Reynolds comes into the general election with about $4 million in the bank.

Hubbell only had $115,000, according to reports filed last week. But Hubbell, unlike Jack Hatch four years ago, has the ability to put a lot more money into the race. He's already donated nearly $3 million to his campaign.

That, along with the involvement of the parties and special interest groups, means each side will have the resources to finance television ads and other advertising critical of the other — which we're likely to see plenty of over the next five months.


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