University of Northern Iowa political science professor Christopher Larimer says mobilizing the voting “base” in each party appears to be more important than a debate that could reach all voters.
“As polarized as the political climate is, particularly in a presidential year, I think that’s probably the calculation the candidates are making,” Larimer says. “That’s a safer route.”
University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle says the “dynamics” of each race matter when it comes to whether the incumbents and challengers are eager to debate.
“It’s kind of an odd thing that we’ve got right where we don’t have in our federal races here in Iowa a lot of people that have already agreed to debates, although there’s still potentially time for them to do so,” Hagle says.
In Iowa’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, there were three debates between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley. By this point in 2014, Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Democratic challenger Jack Hatch had already debated twice.
This year’s campaigns for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic challenger Patty Judge have been negotiating, but there’s been no joint announcement about debates.
In Iowa’s third congressional district, the two major party candidates have announced there will be two debates between Republican incumbent David Young of Van Meter and Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer of Des Moines. One will be on KMA Radio in Shenandoah. The other will be in Council Bluffs on Iowa Public Television.
There’s no debate agreement in the fourth congressional district between Republican incumbent Steve King and Democratic challenger Kim Weaver.
In the first district, first-term Congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque and Democratic challenger Monica Vernon of Cedar Rapids have both individually talked about debates, but nothing is scheduled yet.
Second District Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, has agreed to appear with his Republican challenger Chris Peters at a forum in Coralville’s public library and on a debate televised in the Quad Cities.