Facing a crowded field, the frontrunner Fred Hubbell in the Iowa gubernatorial race faces a tough battle ahead in his quest to unseat Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2018
Having strongly appealed to blue-collar voters in 2016, the GOP in the Hawkeye State managed to flip the state Senate from blue to red while now-President Donald Trump edged Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton out by almost 10 percentage points in the presidential election.
Experts largely attribute Trump’s populist messaging as the key to his historic wins in the rustbelt, pointing to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s narrow loss in the Iowa caucus as a sign conventional Democratic candidates are failing to appeal to their shrinking base in the state. Divisions between moderates and progressives in the state have led some prominent names, including New York Mayor Bill De Blasio to encourage the party to embrace “progressive populism” if they want to have a shot at winning elections in the state.
Hubbell — a former businessman who recently resigned from the board of the Wakonda Club, a country club in Des Moine, to focus on his campaign — currently leads the crowded field of seven Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination. Republicans and the far-left have already begun to paint the candidate an elitist, with the Iowa Republican Party dubbing him “Hollywood Hubbell” after spending time with actor Alec Baldwin at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Fall Gala late last year.
Progressives who attended the event came out against Hubbell, accusing him of being out of touch and holding up silver spoons during his speech, The Des Moines Register reported — signaling he could face issues uniting his party.
While criticisms from the far-left may prove to be a challenge in gaining the approval of rural voters, he received the highest approval rating of the five Democratic candidates listed in the latest Des Moines Register poll.
In turn, the rightward shift in the state appears to be benefiting Reynolds, who assumed the governorship after incumbent Governor Terry Branstad left to serve as the ambassador to China, holds a 51 percent approval rating according to the poll. But, the race is hardly a shoo-in for the incumbent, with 49 percent saying they are open to electing someone new.