A Republican Could Become This State's First Female Senator in History

Getty Images

Only two states have never elected a woman to the Senate, the House or as governor: Iowa and Mississippi. But the close Senate race in Iowa just might change that.

Iowa is a key state in this election, playing a part in determining which party has control of the Senate. Republican Joni Ernst is in a close race with Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley with two weeks until Election Day.

But for Ernst to win, she needs to make up ground with the state's female voters. Braley leads about 14 points ahead of Ernst among female voters, NPR reports.

The lag could likely be attributed to the long-existing gender gap between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats tend to draw more female voters, whereas Republicans draw men. That stereotype is playing out in full force in the Iowa Senate race, with Ernst lagging behind Braley with women voters but pulling ahead of Braley by an even larger margin with men, according to NPR.

Source: Uncredited/AP

Larger than one race: However, Democrat or Republican, for a woman to win office she needs women backing her. Women represent over half of the population eligible to vote. The Washington Post reports that between the 2010 and 2012 elections, the population of women eligible to vote grew by a full percentage point. While that may not seem like a lot, it matters in tight Senate races where every last percentage point could make a difference.

This year, the Hill reports, Republicans have more women running than ever before. Ernst's situation, and that of the other Republican women, creates an interesting conundrum: Female Republican nominees are representing a party that has recently had a contentious relationship with women.

Battle for women: Both parties are well aware of this dynamic, which is why Democrats and Republicans alike have been vying for women's votes. Democrats are hoping that their historically reliable constituency of women, particularly single women, will help them to maintain control of the SenateRepublicans are hoping they can win women over and, subsequently, win control of the Senate.

However, the Democratic Party might be feeling antsy because single women tend to sit out midterm elections. Single women are more likely to vote for Democrats than married women, who tend to lean Republican.

If for no other reason, it'll be interesting to see if history is made or if tried and true norms stick around this Election Day.

This post has been updated.