As Election Day draws nearer, the importance of US House races in the Upper Midwest will be seen through an increased number television advertisements, more money injected into the campaigns by political parties and campaign committees, and more public polling.
Since most of the Upper Midwest's 22 districts have historically not been competitive, attention and resources will hone in on a handful of races. Today's focus is on Iowa's 3rd District—perhaps the only seat of the 10 held by the democrats in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin that is potentially vulnerable in November. (Iowa's 3rd Congressional District comprises twelve counties in central Iowa: Benton, Grundy, Iowa, Jasper, Keokuk, Lucas, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, Polk, Poweshiek, and Tama).
Iowa is neither a red nor a blue state, although for the past generation the GOP has thoroughly dominated the democrats in US House races, winning more than 75% of these elections since 1984 (45 to 14).
Leonard Boswell has been the state's only democratic voice in its delegation to Congress since he entered office in 1996. Boswell earned his seat in the House of Representatives that year when he won a close open-seat race against Republican Mike Mahaffey by 1.8 points. This broke a Republican stronghold of 5 out of 5 delegates representing the state in the House in 1994. Boswell is the only democrat to have won a House race in Iowa since: he won convincingly in 1998 (15.8 points) and 2000 (29.1 points), but had a closer call against Republican nominee Stan Thompson in 2002 (8.4 points) and 2004 (10.5 points).
This year Boswell squares off against republican Iowa State Senator Jeff Lamberti. Lamberti is the GOP's best shot at stealing a seat from the democrats in the Upper Midwest this year, but it will be an uphill climb for him to unseat the 5-term incumbent.
A recent KCCI Research 2000 Poll found Boswell with a 52-41 lead, with just 7% of the district undecided. This 11-point lead suggests Boswell is basically holding onto his supporters from 2002 and 2004, but not turning many new heads in his favor. Boswell's has run a safe campaign in 2006 focused on education, the economy (fiscal responsibility), and Medicare—all uncontroversial issues that will unlikely rally more troops to (nor cause defections from) his camp.
Lamberti is not exactly rocking the boat either—focusing on many of these same issues in his campaign. Lamberti's campaign website highlights his stated accomplishments in the Iowa state senate to improve education, shrink the size of government, help the economy grow, improve Social Security, and fight against crime.
It will be interesting to see how much money Lamberti raises in the coming weeks—will the GOP try to keep him afloat, or sink all their resources into protecting their much-coveted (open) 1st District? Come back tomorrow for a discussion on that race.