Iowa Is Back In Focus As A Swing State After disastrous Democratic caucuses earlier this year, both Republicans and Democrats are giving the state a lot of attention and money in the run-up to November.
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You Haven't Heard The Last Of Iowa This Election Cycle

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You Haven't Heard The Last Of Iowa This Election Cycle

You Haven't Heard The Last Of Iowa This Election Cycle

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's been five months since the debacle that was the Iowa caucuses. That first contest in the Democratic presidential race went horribly wrong, thanks to a faulty smartphone app. But don't write Iowa off so fast. Both Republicans and Democrats are giving the state a lot of attention and money heading into November. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters explains why the state is getting labeled now a toss-up.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Bringing up the Iowa caucuses should come with a trigger warning for Iowa Democrats like Pat Copley.

PAT COPLEY: I was in shock. I think I was really in shock. And then it just went on and on and on.

MASTERS: Copley, who is a retired medical technician, lives in Marshalltown. She volunteered and caucused for Bernie Sanders, who won this county. Copley is not excited to vote for Joe Biden, although she is eager to make Donald Trump a one-term president. It's a similar situation she found herself in four years ago when voting for Hillary Clinton. She says back then she could sympathize with Trump voters.

COPLEY: So your basic poor or working poor or even middle-class people were disgusted and wanted just to shake it up.

MASTERS: This is one of the many rural counties in Iowa that flipped from voting for Barack Obama twice to Trump in 2016. But this year, the local pork plant and veterans hospital have both had COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mark Smith represents Marshalltown in the state legislature and took over as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party right after the caucus meltdown. He says voters here are energized because of President Trump's record.

MARK SMITH: The trade wars have hurt agriculture, which is so significant to our state. His saddling up to big oil has caused us problems with ethanol.

MASTERS: Rural Iowa went big for Trump in 2016. He carried the state by nearly 10 points. Two years later, a Republican won the governor's race here while Democrats flipped two House seats. Jeff Kaufmann is the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

JEFF KAUFMANN: We are purple. And, you know, woe to any chair that misses that point that Iowa is a swing state.

MASTERS: Polls here show President Trump and Republican Senator Joni Ernst's approval rating are falling. That may be why last month, Ernst tweeted this video of herself standing next to her Harley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONI ERNST: So I'm challenging Ms. Greenfield to six debates, two each month, starting in August. Let's let Iowans hear what we have to say.

MASTERS: She's talking about her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. The real estate executive won her four-way primary last month with a record number of ballots cast, mostly by absentee. But campaigning during a pandemic looks a lot different. There are fewer picnics and parades. The Iowa State Fair was canceled. Instead...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And everybody, this is our first Zoom event, so we're waiting on Theresa's link to work correctly.

MASTERS: That was a Democratic fundraiser earlier this week. Those watching from home were munching on meals delivered to them from a local restaurant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THERESA GREENFIELD: Again, I'm Theresa Greenfield. I'm a businesswoman. I'm a mother of four. I'm a farm kid.

MASTERS: With or without the usual campaigning, there's a more favorable mood for Democrats in Iowa, says pollster J. Ann Selzer.

J ANN SELZER: There has been a heavy burden that this state has carried that included issues with trade, with tariffs and then with the vulnerable industries like meat processing plants during COVID-19. Iowa's just in a position to be maybe more ready than some other states to make a change.

MASTERS: And while Joe Biden came in fourth during the caucuses, his campaign has announced a senior team here. And he'll be back in Iowa later this month in the form of a virtual event.

For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Marshalltown, Iowa.

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