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‘Pivot counties’ could sway Iowa’s presidential election results

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - As Election Day approaches, eyes will be on ‘pivot counties'. Those are the counties that have historically swung between red and blue in presidential elections.

206 counties across the nation pivoted from Democratic candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to Republican candidate Donald Trump in 2016, according to information from the non-partisan group Ballotpedia.

“In Iowa we’re not exactly unfamiliar with that we’re considered a swing state, so that probably means that we have a lot of counties swing as well, Associate Professor Tim Hagle at the University of Iowa’s Dept. of Political Science said.

In fact, Iowa had more pivot counties than any other state in the country. Of the 99 counties in Iowa, 31 made the pivot with the majority of those clustered on the eastern side of the state. This includes five in the TV6 viewing area including: Des Moines, Louisa, Muscatine, Clinton, and Jackson. They surround Scott County, which went blue in 2016.

“There’s a strong industrial and union presence on the Eastern side. As well as the shipping and magnates and all that along the Mississippi River. So I think all of that means it has a bit of a different political culture,” Karen Kedrowski, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center and Political Science Professor at Iowa State University, said.

The majority of pivot counties nationwide are located in the midwest, where many swing states, including Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, are also located.

“We saw the Midwest was pivotal to trump’s election in 2016 and it is now pivotal to this election," Kedrowski said.

“A lot of those counties had a plurality of no-party voters,” Hagle said.

These swing voters might split their ticket rather than voting straight party lines and are more focused on the issues that matter to their family rather than partisan politics.

“They want to know what’s happening with my job, what’s happening with the economy, how’s my healthcare situation,” Hagle said.

After the 2016 election, where many of these no-party voters opted for the outsider Donald Trump, rather than Hillary Clinton, anything could go in Iowa where many of the polls remain statistically tied.

“The voter turnout in these pivot counties is very, very good. We can expect that these folks are going to show up and we know now that they are really a bellwether for what’s going to happen in the country,” Kedrowski said.

“Now we have to wait and see are they going to stick with Trump or are they going to take a chance with Biden and go back to more of a traditional candidate,” Hagle said.

Illinois also has 11 pivot counties, including Caroll, Henderson, Henry, Jo Daviess, Knox, Mercer, Warren, and Whiteside in the TV6 viewing area. These counties also voted Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Trump in 2016.

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