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Erin Murphy

If these were Cory Booker’s first steps in a marathon Iowa caucus campaign, he shot out of the starting blocks.

Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, was the first big name on the Democrats’ list of potential presidential candidates to visit first-in-the-nation Iowa since the primary elections in June.

His four-day swing included the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser and multiple stops across the state stumping for Iowa candidates for Congress and the statehouse.

The timing of Booker’s visit was serendipitous; he made it to Iowa mere hours after the U.S. Senate voted along party lines to confirm U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats were disheartened that their efforts to stall or block Kavanaugh’s nomination proved unsuccessful

Booker delivered a hopeful message, and a rallying cry, to more than 1,000 people at the party fundraiser and hundreds more at the myriad other events he attended during his stay.

Iowa Democrats loved it. Multiple Democrats, after hearing Booker speak, said they liked his optimistic and hopeful message.

“I was hurting. I needed that room of Iowans. I really did. They were incredible. I found a room of fellowship. I found a room that we all were feeling pain and anguish. And that’s what I tried to talk to them (about),” Booker told reporters after speaking to roughly 150 people in Boone on Monday afternoon. “

“Anger is a productive emotion. It can be a constructive emotion,” Booker said. “But there’s constructive responses and then there’s responses where we say, ‘Oh, the system’s rigged and I’m going to surrender to cynicism and sit out.’ So what I want people to do is let their outrage get them out working. Let their pain turn into perseverance. I want people to understand that the way you respond to despair is to be an agent of hope.”

Booker added, “hope is not a saccharin word,” and encouraged Democrats to work to use their disappointment as motivation to help elect the party’s candidates up and down the ballot.

“Hope is work. Hope is sacrifice. Hope is struggle. Hope is getting up and saying, you know what, we faced a terrible defeat on the Senate floor but we’re not defeated,” Booker said.

REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS IN TROUBLE?

A Washington Post analysis includes Iowa on a list of the top 10 states most likely to flip from a Republican to a Democratic governor in the upcoming midterm election.

Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds faces Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell and Libertarian Jake Porter. A recent Iowa Poll showed Hubbell with a slim lead over Reynolds, but within the margin for error.

The Post analysis notes Reynolds lacks the normal power of incumbency --- she was promoted to the job in 2017 when former Gov. Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China --- and the drop in crop prices as a result of federal trade negotiations as possible headwinds that could hurt Reynolds’ campaign.

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The Post’s list is full of Midwestern states, including a pair of Iowa’s neighbors.

Illinois is listed as the most likely state to flip from a Republican to Democratic governor --- GOP incumbent Bruce Rauner trails Democrat J.B. Pritzker by an average of 15.7 points in polls tracked by Real Clear Politics.

And Wisconsin also is on the list. Despite victories in 2010 and 2014 with a recall victory in between, Gov. Scott Walker this year is in a close re-election race with Democrat Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of schools.

Also in the Post’s list are Michigan and Ohio.

WALKER’S FATHER PASSES

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s father Llewellyn passed away this week.

Scott Walker, during his presidential run in 2015, often spoke of his father, who was the pastor at First Baptist Church in Plainfield, Iowa, in the 1970s.

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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