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IA-1: Dems Best Chance for a Pick-Up in Upper Midwest

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Smart Politics' continuing look at competitive US House races across the Upper Midwest began yesterday with a discussion of the Republican's best shot at picking up a seat (IA-3). On the other side of the spectrum is Iowa's 1st Congressional District—which is the best chance not only for the democrats to pick up a seat in the Upper Midwest but also one of the most prized targets across the nation for the Democratic Party across the nation.

The 1st District is an open race, vacated by 8-term GOP congressman Jim Nussle who opted to run for Governor in 2006. Democrats were on the verge of giving Nussle a competitive race in recent years, but always falling short: losing by 12.6, 7.5, 11.2, 11.7, 14.5, and 11.9 points from 1994 to 2004. (The last two races after redistricting—the current district comprises twelve eastern counties of the state: Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Clayton, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Jackson, Jones, and Scott).

In 2006 the Democrats are running former Iowa Trial Lawyers Association President Bruce Braley against GOP businessman Mike Whalen. A recent poll by the Des Moines Register of likely voters spots Braley a 7-point lead, 44-37 with a significant 17% still undecided (not too surprising with two fresh faces on the November ballot in a fairly competitively drawn district).

Braley has crafted a campaign that is tough on key issues—among his top priorities are policies to help curb illegal immigration (no amnesty), securing the nation's borders and ports, and supplying U.S. troops in Iraq with better body armor. However, Braley should appeal to his democratic base in his proposals to raise to the minimum wage, increase funds to education, expand access to health care, end subsidies to oil companies, expand stem cell research, and protect a woman's right to an abortion.

Whalen's policy positions should also help him wrap up his GOP base. He presents himself as much more of a hawk on key foreign policy issues like Iraq and the War on Terror—characterizing Braley as a 'cut and run' candidate and instead advocates an "as long as it takes" position for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Whalen also opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, but is much more specific than Braley as to how he would help guard U.S. borders (I.D. cards, fences, more border control agents etc.). Whalen departs from Braley on the expected issues: he is pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and against new federal funding for stem cell research.

But in a competitive district like Iowa's 1st, the ultimate determinant as to whom emerges victorious in November may hinge less on the issues and campaigns of the individual candidates, and more on the district voter's general mood towards the democrats and republicans—specifically how the Republicans currently in charge in D.C. are faring on key issues like Iraq, Immigration, and gas prices.

Previous post: IA-3: GOP Has Sights Set On Boswell
Next post: MN Governor: Race Still a Toss-Up

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Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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