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U.S. Senate races in the November 3 elections could hold the key to whether the winner of the presidential contest can enact his agenda. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on a hard-fought Senate race in the small state of Iowa.

((NARRATOR))
In 2016, Donald Trump carried the central state of Iowa by 9 percentage points.

((Dan Zumbach, Farmer & Iowa State Senator))
“We elected him to get things done, and he’s doing exactly what he said he would.”

((NARRATOR))
Four years later, a global pandemic and a trade war impacting Iowa’s agricultural economy have led to a tight race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.


((Doug Thompson, Northern Iowa Farmer))
“I think it would be devastating if I had to look forward to another four years of the Trump administration.”

((NARRATOR))
Iowa could also determine whether Republicans hold or lose their slim Senate majority. Republican first-term Sen. Joni Ernst raised eyebrows when she fumbled a question on farm commodity prices during a debate with her Democratic challenger, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield.

((NATURAL SOUND OF DEBATE)) ((YouTube Courtesy)).
SENATOR ERNST: “I think you had asked about corn. And it depends on what the inputs are but probably about $5.50.
MODERATOR: Well, you are a couple of dollars off, I think.”

((NARRATOR))
Moments earlier, Greenfield had no trouble answering a similar question.

((NATURAL SOUND OF DEBATE)) ((YouTube Courtesy))
THERESA GREENFIELD: Well a bushel of corn is going for about $3.68 today, $3.69."

((NARRATOR))
Farmer Dan Zumbach, who previously served with Ernst in the Iowa State Senate, said the debates left an unfair impression of Ernst.

((Dan Zumbach, Farmer & Iowa State Senator))
“They made a lot of to-do about nothing, and Senator Ernst understands agriculture.”


((NARRATOR))
Farmer Doug Thompson supports Greenfield, and says the Trump administration’s trade war with China —backed by Ernst — lowered grain prices and hurt him financially

((Doug Thompson, Northern Iowa Farmer))
“Her success or failure is going to be based on Trump’s success or failure in Iowa.”

((NARRATOR))
Government payments compensating farmers for lost income haven’t reassured Thompson.


((Doug Thompson, Northern Iowa Farmer))
“Agriculture has been devastated. Even though we’ve been paid off, there’s still a lot of stress out here, lotta stress on balance sheets if you will..”

((NARRATOR))
Iowa is among America’s top-producing states of corn, pork and eggs. Polls show the state’s economy is the top issue for voters.

Many analysts expect Democrats to boost their numbers in the Senate. The question: By how many?

((Timothy Hagle, Political Science Professor, University of Iowa))
“There are about half a dozen races where Republicans seem to be vulnerable this time. Iowa seems to be one of those states.”

((NARRATOR))
The University of Iowa’s Timothy Hagle says independent voters — about one third of Iowa’s electorate — are key to the Ernst-Greenfield contest.
((Timothy Hagle, Political Science Professor, University of Iowa))

“It’s how those no party voters, those independent’s vote that’s critical and they’re the swing voters. Do they really care about some of this political infighting, or does that just turn them off at a certain point?”

((NARRATOR))
Some Iowans are voting early.


((Doug Thompson, Northern Iowa Farmer))
“My ballot is in my kitchen awaiting my signature.”

((NARRATOR))
Amid the pandemic, early voting in Iowa is up 97% compared to 2016.

((Kane Farabaugh, VOA News, Cedar Rapids, Iowa))

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