Seven-term Representative Leonard Boswell is the 64th most vulnerable Democrat in the House of Representatives, according to new analysis by Crisitunity at Swing State Project. Crisitunity’s “vulnerability index” takes into account both the partisan voting index of each member’s district (based on presidential election results) and the House incumbent’s performance in the previous election.
Republicans are optimistic about their chances against Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district. I’ve talked to a few nervous Democrats too. Boswell performed better than John Kerry in 2004, but he underperformed the top of the ticket in 2006, the last midterm election. Even against a no-name challenger in 2008, Boswell performed only about as well as Barack Obama in the third district.
I still think Boswell is in a relatively strong position going into this campaign. He has brought a lot of money to the district (the stimulus bill helped, of course). The crowded GOP primary will raise the name recognition of the eventual winner, but the campaign could turn nasty, raising their nominee’s negatives. The Republican candidates will spend down their campaign accounts before June while Boswell continues to raise money.
I don’t see the National Republican Congressional Committee stepping in with a lot of help during the general election campaign. The NRCC still has much less cash on hand than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. House Republicans have dozens of more appealing targets than IA-03, and Boswell is in the DCCC’s Frontline program, ensuring that they will spend money on his behalf if he seems to be in trouble.
In my opinion, the biggest risk for Boswell is a total collapse in Democratic turnout. He hasn’t inspired enthusiastic support from the Democratic base, and if the economy doesn’t improve, this could be a very tough year for us to get our voters out. On the other hand, Democratic party registration in Polk County has grown substantially, and I think the party’s GOTV here is stronger than in some other parts of Iowa.
A second danger factor for Boswell is that corporations will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect Republicans. Then again, corporate-funded political action committees were running ads against his votes on the climate change bill and health care reform long before the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case.
What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Can Boswell survive a Republican wave, if it comes to that?