Here's what surprised me on election night...
I thought Governor Chet Culver would make a closer contest of it. Iowans hadn't voted out an incumbent governor since 1962. But Republican Terry Branstad beat Culver by double digits...10 points. It wasn't close at all.
What happened to all the Republican talk that Brenna Findley would knock off LONG-time Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller? Findley raised more than twice as much cash. And yet the race wasn't close (56-44%).
Republicans first seemed to be most excited about their chances of taking the 3rd District. That changed to the 1st. Then, no, it was the 2nd. In the end, they lost the 2nd by the biggest deficit of the 3 (Dem. Dave Loebsack won 51-46% in the 2nd. Leonard Boswell won 51-47% in the 3rd. Bruce Braley had the closest night of the bunch. He won 50-48% in the 1st).
Democrats had really talked up Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin after former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan handpicked her to take on juggernaut U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. They said this was the year. Well, Conlin just barely avoided being doubled up by Grassley on election night (64-33%).
And there's always that talk about how Republican Steve King could never lose in the uber-Republican western/northwestern Iowa 5th District. But his margin of victory wasn't as much as Tom Latham's win in the 4th. Latham won 65.7%-31.94%. King won 65.79%-32.31%. King won big, just not as big as Latham.
And then there's Michael Mauro, the Democratic Secretary of State. Mauro was a favorite of many in the media for his willingness to answer tough questions, no matter what it meant for his party. I talked to people, Republicans and Democrats alike, who were stunned to learn Republican challenger, Matt Schultz, won. Schultz had drawn ridicule from some when he said he was making the race about jobs. That struck people as odd since the secretary of state oversees elections, not normally job creation. Schultz also admitted skipping a bunch of elections. Despite his critics, Schultz won. So he can make the office about whatever he wants now and since he is just 31, he will undoubtedly start appearing on lists of the young, up-and-comers for his party.
And what about the Iowa Statehouse? Republicans gained 16 seats as I write this, about 10-12 more than some predictions. And the Repubs have gained 6 seats so far in the senate. That's also 2-4 more than some expectations. Quite a shift at the statehouse overall. It will be a whole new dynamic. Crazy.
Finally, the Iowa Supreme Court Justices. Talk about a race the media were late covering. Iowans booted out 3 justices following the same-sex marriage ruling last year. Who saw this coming a few months back? Almost no one. It has never happened in Iowa before. My co-worker, Sonya Heitshusen, researched it today. She could find just one case anywhere in the country, ever, where more than one justice got kicked out in an election. That was in California in the 1980s. Quite a bit of history Iowa just made. Where will the fight go from here?
I've hit the wall as I write this, which is dangerous. So please forgive me for any spelling errors or rambling sentences. It's been a long night/short morning. But quite a lot of story lines for us to follow in the months ahead.