Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Iowa

Iowa is one of those smaller states that Obama needs to retain in 2012. Due to the census, they lost a House seat (and electoral vote) dropping to four seats. With approval ratings largely reflective of his national average and moving as it does, the state is considered a toss up, swing state at this point. However, given the Obama machine now in place in Iowa, I suspect it will break for Obama in 2012 when the dust settles. Expect him to make appearances in the state in search of a golf course while he mugs for the camera eating something pork and some corn on the cob while extolling the virtues of ethanol.

As mentioned previously, Iowa loses a House seat dropping them from five to four. They were one of the first states to approve a redistricting plan which Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed into law on April 19, 2011.

The 1st District became more Democratic by losing Scott County and taking in Linn County. Democrat Bruce Braley won this district in 2006. Considered the most politically talented Democrat in the state, redistricting has caused fellow Democrat Dave Loebsack (who lives in Linn County) to run in the newly drawn 2nd District. The most likely challenger to Braley will be a rematch of 2010 when Ben Lange came within two points of unseating Braley. However, given the more favorable demographics and territory for Braley and the fact there will be no GOP wave in 2012, it is hard to see how Lange will come as close in 2012, let alone defeat him.

No current incumbent lives in the new 2nd District although Loebsack is now making the move in order to avoid a bruising primary against Braley. Because the more conservative Scott County is in this district, it becomes a little more favorable to Republicans. However, that is somewhat negated by the retention of the more Democratic Johnson County. There are a few GOP challengers lining up including John Deere chief legal counsel John Archer, Dan Dolan and Tea Party activist Richard Gates. Incidentally, Johnson County includes one of those liberal college towns- Iowa City.

The task for Loebsack will be slightly more difficult than in the past. Importantly, many of his campaign contributors originate out of Linn County which is now in the 1st District. Not taking any chances, he has scheduled some high profile fund raisers in his new district with Bruce Braley, Seantor Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell. Additionally, many of his former contributors say they will continue to financially support Loebsack despite the fact that he will not be their representative. Until a Republican candidate emerges, one would have to predict a Loebsack victory.

District 3 will likely feature a good match up between Leonard Boswell who has represented the Third since 1997 against Republican Tom Latham, who formerly represented the 4th District. He is leaving the 4th to avoid a primary fight against fellow Republican Steve King. Latham is more moderate than King and has allied himself with Speaker Boehner in the House. A large portion of the 3rd includes area formerly represented by Latham, so he is not a complete unknown in the district. But then again, over half of the territory represented by Boswell is also in this newly drawn district. There will be a certain amount of re-introduction of oneself to new constituents, although the bigger burden will be on Latham. However, Latham does start with a 9-1 advantage in cash on hand for this campaign which will be targeted at Boswell since he will likely not face a serious primary challenge. Even if Latham had not moved here, the GOP had targeted Boswell for defeat as they have in the past. The GOP believes that with the right candidate, he can be taken down and they believe that Latham is that candidate. He may be just moderate enough to win over some Democrats and independents in the district. I expect a Latham victory.

The 4th District stays largely unchanged and is represented by Republican Steve King. He is probably the polar opposite of Latham- staunchly conservative and, at times, controversial. Because the district stays unchanged, his national high profile and fund raising ability, King would seem to have the inside track for re-election. However, as Boswell has been a repeated target, the Democrats have gunned for King in the past. They too believe that with the right candidate, they can take King down to defeat. They now believe they have that candidate in Christie Vilsack. She is the wife of Obama’s Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. Expect Obama to leave the golf course and stump for her in Iowa. Because the approval rates for Congress are more dismal than those of a sitting President and because Obama will probably prevail in Iowa, i believe a combination of her name recognition coupled with Obama’s coat tail effects, the GOP will lose this seat, especially if she can successfully portray King as part of the problem with a dysfunctional Congress. In short, by running against Congress generally and King in particular, while staying sufficiently in the middle to appeal to the independents in this district, she should prevail.

Because the current congressional delegation is 3-2 for the Democrats in Iowa, the new breakdown should be 3-1 representing a GOP House seat loss in 2012. In addition, Obama should take their 6 electoral votes.

Running totals thus far:
Obama with 99 electoral votes to 107 for GOP nominee;
Net gain of 2 Governors;
Net gain of 3 Senate seats (NM, ND, NE), and;
Net loss of 7 House seats.

Next: Missouri