As badly as 2020 went for Team Blue, though, crossover voting actually worked in their favor in Iowa in a year when it mostly benefited downballot Republicans nationally. Five of the 63 Trump seats in the 100-member House, where members are up every two years, are held by Democrats, while just one of the 37 Biden districts is represented by a Republican.
The reddest Democratic-controlled turf is HD-52 in the northeast corner of the state, where incumbent Todd Prichard won his fifth term 54-46 even as Trump was romping 62-37; Prichard, who ran an abortive campaign for governor in 2018, was serving as minority leader at the time, though he stepped down from that post last month.
It’s almost impossible to believe now, but Obama carried Prichard’s constituency 56-43 in 2012 as he was winning 52-46 statewide. The area has utterly transformed politically since then, though: Trump prevailed 57-38 in 2016, while Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds won 55-42 in 2018 amidst a close statewide race against Democrat Fred Hubbell. But Prichard’s seat is far from an anomaly, as a full 28 of the 61 Obama districts backed Trump last year. Unsurprisingly, the other four Democrats in Trump seats also represent areas that had gone for Obama in the past. (Two Obama-Clinton seats went for Trump in 2020, while two other districts that had swung from Obama to Trump in 2016 supported Biden last year.)
The one Biden Republican, by contrast, is Eddie Andrews in the Des Moines area. Andrews unseated a Democratic incumbent 51-49 even as Biden was winning his HD-39 51-47, a victory that made Andrews the second-ever Black Republican to serve in the chamber. (The first was Cecil Reed, who was elected to a lone term in 1966.)
Andrews’ victory came even though his district’s political trajectory has been the direct opposite of Prichard’s. Mitt Romney prevailed 56-43 here in 2012, but Trump won it by a much smaller 49-44; the seat then favored Reynolds only 50-48 before Biden took it last year. All of this makes Andrews’ district one of just four Romney-Biden House seats in a state that has overwhelmingly moved in the other direction.
We’ll turn to the Senate, where half the members are up in presidential years while the rest are on the ballot in midterm cycles. Democrats managed to hold on to the upper chamber during the 2010 and 2014 GOP waves, but they finally lost power during the 2016 Trump sweep. Republicans ended the 2020 cycle with the same hefty 32-18 majority they came in with, and it would almost certainly take two solid election cycles in a row for Democrats to have a chance at retaking control anytime soon.
Trump won 32 seats to Biden’s 18, with two senators in each party representing crossover turf. The only member of this quartet who was up in 2020 was Republican state Sen. Brad Zaun, whose SD-20 includes all of Andrews’ constituency. (In Iowa, two House districts are nested within each Senate district.) Zaun had failed to unseat the late Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell in a competitive race in 2010, but he demonstrated considerably more electoral success last year when he won a fifth term 51-49 as Biden was prevailing 53-45.
The other Senate Republican in a Biden district is Roby Smith, who won 53-47 in 2018 in a Davenport-area seat that backed Hubbell 50-49 in that year’s race for governor; two years later, SD-47 went for Biden 52-46.
Their two Democratic counterparts are Amanda Ragan and Jackie Smith, who were also last on the ballot in 2018. Ragan held on 51-49 in SD-27, another northeastern Iowa constituency that went for Reynolds 55-43 and later supported Trump by a slightly larger 56-42 spread. Smith, meanwhile, unseated a GOP senator in another 51-49 race in a seat based around Sioux City in northwest Iowa; SD-07 supported Reynolds by a tiny 48.9-48.8 margin, while Trump won it 50-49 in 2020.
The GOP’s 2020 wins will likely have long-term consequences even if Iowa becomes competitive again in the near future. Under state law, a nonpartisan agency proposes maps to the state legislature, and lawmakers have always adopted them. In previous decades, control over Iowa’s state government has been divided between the parties, but for the first time, Republicans are completely in charge. As a result, they have the option to simply reject the agency’s proposals or repeal them altogether, which would allow them to implement their own gerrymanders.