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Erin Murphy

Folks who live along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois and southern Wisconsin have a serious independent voting streak.

That was established in 2016 with the region’s wealth of Obama-Trump counties — counties that voted for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 and Republican President Donald Trump in 2016.

The area kept swinging in the recent 2018 midterm elections. After going for Trump, the region’s three congressional races all went to Democrats.

And the two Democratic congressional incumbents in the region outperformed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by some of the largest margins in the country, according to data compiled by the Cook Political Report.

In Iowa, Democrat Abby Finkenauer unseated two-term Republican Rod Blum in the 2018 midterm election in Iowa’s 1st District, which spans the northeast corner of the state, including four Mississippi River counties: Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque and Jackson.

Finkenauer won by 5 percentage points in the district that Trump in 2016 won by 4 points.

And covering the rest of Iowa’s Mississippi River counties — Clinton, Scott, Muscatine, Louisa, Des Moines and Lee — through the state’s southeast corner, 2nd District Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack won re-election this year by 12 percentage points.

In 2016, Trump won the district by 4 points.

Those 2016 Trump-to-2018 congressional Democrat swings — 9 points in the 1st District and 16 in the 2nd — once again shows the independent nature and pendulum-like recent voting history of the region. How those districts vote in the 2020 presidential election will likely figure prominently in who wins the state.

But those swings were nothing like what happened on the other side of the river.

Democratic Reps. Cheri Bustos in northwest Illinois and Ron Kind in southwest Wisconsin both improved upon Clinton’s 2016 margins by 24 percentage points. Only five congressional candidates in the country improved upon Clinton’s 2016 numbers by bigger margins, according to data compiled by Dave Wasserman, an editor for the Cook Political Report.

Just like Loebsack, Bustos and Kind had the power of incumbency behind their efforts. (And Bustos had a pretty weak opponent.) But their performances, combined with their Democratic colleagues’ across the river, showed again how people who live along the Mississippi River in this area of the country are true swing voters.

In case you’re curious, the biggest Clinton 2016-to-2018 congressional Democrat swing was in West Virginia’s 3rd District. And yet even with his 37-point swing, Democrat Richard Ojeda still lost his election bid by almost 14 points.

Reynolds elected to RGA post

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week was elected to the Republican Governors Association’s executive committee.

The RGA held elections at its meetings last week in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was elected chairman and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vice chairman.

Reynolds, who earlier this month was elected to a full four-year term after ascending to the office in 2017, was one of seven Republican governors elected to the RGA’s executive committee.

The RGA donated more than $6 million to Reynolds’ 2018 campaign, according to state campaign finance records.

The RGA’s executive committee collectively makes political strategy decisions, approves spending and recruits candidates to run for governor, according to Reynolds’ campaign.

"I am humbled by the support of my fellow Republican governors, and I believe this positions is a reflection of the positive things we are doing in Iowa," Reynolds said in a statement released by her campaign. "The RGA was instrumental in my election, and I look forward to playing a role in helping to elect Republican governors around the country."

The RGA terms are for one year.

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