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JOHNSTON — Joni Ernst won Iowa by 8 percentage points in 2014 and Donald Trump won the state by 10 points in 2016. Yet in their re-election bids here, Trump is clinging to a narrow lead and Ernst is trailing, according to the most recent polls.

Chalk it up to Iowa’s historical purple-state voting tendencies, says Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.

Chalk it up to Trump, says Mark Smith, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

The two state party chairman discussed the 2020 elections Friday morning in taping this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.

The two had varied explanations for why Republicans Ernst and Trump are not currently enjoying the same cushions they did in their elections.

Ernst won an open-seat U.S. Senate race in 2014 by eight points but is trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in recent polling on her re-election race.

Trump carried the state by 10 points en route to his 2016 victory, but holds just a slim lead over Democratic former vice president Joe Biden in recent Iowa polls.

“We’ve always been purple,” Kaufmann said, referring to Iowa’s rich history of voting for both Republicans and Democrats in statewide elections. “I remember after some successes we had in 2014 and 2016 there were national reporters trying everything they could to get me to say that we were red. And I said, ‘We’re purple.’

“We are a swing state. And elections here are never going to be taken for granted at any level, and this is going to be another bruising battle.”

Smith said the 2020 election is a referendum on Trump, and that’s why Republicans find themselves in close races in Iowa.

“This election is very competitive this year because of the failed policies of Donald Trump, that he came to Iowa four years ago running for president and promised a lot of things that would be beneficial for Iowans,” Smith said.

Smith became state party chairman earlier this year after former chairman Troy Price resigned in the wake of the 2020 Iowa caucuses. Iowa Democrats were unable to report official results on Caucus Night or in the days immediately after because of technological issues with a new app that had been created for the caucuses.

Due to that confusion and an historically close margin, most media outlets did not declare a winner of the Democratic caucuses. Pete Buttigieg edged Bernie Sanders for the most state delegate equivalents according to the state party’s official results, but there remained enough disputed results that would change the razor-thin outcome.

Iowa Democrats pledged to conduct an internal investigation into what went wrong with their caucuses and the reporting app. Smith said Friday that investigation is taking place, and a report should be issued within the next few weeks.

“That (investigation) is still in process and we’re still looking at that,” Smith said. “We’re continuing and we’ll have a report here in the coming weeks. … The report will be an analysis of what went wrong, and as a result of what went wrong we will then be looking at what changes we need to make in the process.”

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