Iowa State Fair 2019
CNN  — 

Two decades ago, there was no state swingier than Iowa.

In 2000, Al Gore edged George W. Bush there by just .3% – roughly 4,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million cast. Four years later, Bush eked out a win over John Kerry in Iowa by just .6%.

Barack Obama’s ties to the state, which launched his presidential campaign with a win in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, moved the state in his direction – as he carried it in both of his races.

But even as Obama was winning at the top of the ticket, Republicans were making gains down-ballot. Republican Terry Branstad won the governor’s race in 2010 and held the office until he left to join the Trump administration in 2017. His lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, took over and won a full term in 2018 – not a great year nationally for Republicans. And President Donald Trump won the state by nearly double digits in 2016.

All of that recent history led many political observers to leave Iowa off the list of most competitive states in the coming 2020 election. That decision may have been a mistake, at least according to a new Iowa poll.

That poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register, showed Trump at 44% to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 43% – a statistical dead heat. The poll also showed a majority of Iowans (52%) disapproving of the job Trump has been doing.

On the Senate level, newly minted Democratic nominee Theresa Greenfield took 46% to 43% for Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who, until this poll, wasn’t seen as one of the most endangered Republican members.

And you don’t need to depend only on that poll to see how Iowa has become, again, a swing state. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have lavished attention on Iowa as the 2020 campaign gears up; Pence was in the state on Tuesday and Trump was there in February before the coronavirus lockdown stopped almost all campaign travel.

Why is Iowa back to being closely contested at the presidential level? Trump’s trade policy – and the negative effects it’s had on Iowa’s famers – absolutely plays a role. Although Iowa farmers said they were (mostly) sticking with Trump in late 2019, the economic slowdown worldwide as a result of the coronavirus may have caused some to reconsider.

The Point: Iowa as a battleground state is bad news for Trump, who is already facing a narrowing of his paths to win a second term.