Recent past elections have clearly established Iowa as neither a red nor blue state, but rather somewhere in the middle, truly a purple state. In 2000 Al Gore narrowly carried the Hawkeye State, but in 2004 it was one of only two states nationally to switch from blue to red, with Bush carrying it by about 3,000 votes.
Then, 2006 was not good to Iowa Republicans. They lost two congressional seats when Democrat Bruce Braley took the seat that was vacated by Jim Nussle for a governor’s race and Dave Loebsack knocked off veteran moderate Jim Leach. A congressional delegation that had been 4-to-1 GOP as recently as 2002 is now 3-to-2 Democrat.
Iowa resumes its battleground status in 2008. In addition to targeting the two freshmen Democrats, the GOP has also set its sights on Leonard Boswell, the 74-year-old incumbent in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District who was re-elected in 2006 with the smallest victory margin of any Democratic incumbent in a non-reapportioned district. Liberal Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin also has to defend his Senate seat this year.
Numerous Republican candidates have risen to the challenges.
Kim Schmett, a former chief of staff for the last Republican to represent much of the current district is the party’s nominee in the 3rd District against Boswell. Schmett, a long time conservative activist who is currently the director of the state association for children’s homes and shelters has assembled an impressive campaign team directed by former Iowa GOP executive directors and Romney staffers Gentry Collins and David Kochel. While getting off to a somewhat recent start, he has led all Iowa GOP campaigns in fundraising since he announced his candidacy.
In Iowa’s 1st District, first-term state senator David Hartsuch, an emergency medicine physician, has emerged as the party’s nominee to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley.
But the situation for Iowa’s other Republican challengers has just gotten hazier since last Tuesday’s primary election.
Three candidates were vying to run against freshman Democratic Rep. David Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd CD. When the smoke cleared away after the Tuesday voting, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa ophthalmologist who is a past president of the state medical society, found herself holding a 109-vote lead over Peter Teahan, a Cedar Rapids funeral home director and Red Cross volunteer. Lee Harder, a former state prison chaplain had 2,274 votes.
The three way contest to nominate a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Harkin is also exceptionally close. Two of the candidates, former state legislator George Eichorn and Christopher Reed were in a virtual dead heat at week’s end. With 90% of the precincts reporting, there was a 162-vote spread between the two. Both candidates were at 35% of the popular vote, with Steve Rathje, the third candidate winning the remaining 30%. Iowa election law automatically grants a recount for races decided by less than 1% of the vote. It also requires a candidate to receive at least 35% of the vote to win the nomination. Failing to reach the required minimum throws the process to a special nominating convention that is entitled to select any candidate it desires.
When Iowa Republicans head to Des Moines for their state convention at HyVee Hall on June 14, they still may not know who their candidates might be.
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