In what one might describe as collateral damage from Donald Trump’s attempted election coup, Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart has abandoned her effort to get the U.S. House to review and reverse the state-certified 2020 victory of Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. The GOP candidate had won by a mere six votes after a full 24-county recount of votes in southeast Iowa’s Second Congressional District. There was nothing terribly unusual about Hart’s appeal to the House after what amounted to a tie election, since 22 disputed votes for her were discarded on questionable grounds. As Democrats have pointed out, more than a hundred contested House elections have been reviewed by the chamber and its committees over the years.
But that’s where Donald Trump comes in. Hart and her advisers went to the House instead of pursuing an appeal of the election results through the courts in Republican-controlled Iowa. And that was just not a good look after nearly every Democrat within reach of a microphone or keyboard had at some point denounced the Trump campaign for refusing to accept state-certified election results that made Joe Biden president.
As Ben Jacobs explained in New York, Hart’s challenge, and the possibility House Democrats would sustain it on a party-line vote, became a propaganda bonanza for Republicans and for conservative media:
This isn’t just a legal debate about election processes, it’s also a political one that even some Democrats appear uncomfortable with, and it’s one that Democrats are losing in the court of public opinion …
For Republicans, it is a gift that keeps giving. It is an issue that energizes base voters, is perfect fodder for Fox News segments and Wall Street Journal editorials, without alienating any swing voters and helps memory-hole the ugly aftermath of the 2020 election.
Hart is understandably a tad bitter, saying as she folded her tent, “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans.” It’s unclear whether she jumped out of this challenge or was pushed out by Democrats happy to put it behind them. But as the saying goes, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.