IA-02: Loebsack on the Frontline, Republicans campaigning (updated)

In another sign that Iowa's second Congressional district will be competitive next year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added three-term Representative Dave Loebsack to its "Frontline" list of vulnerable incumbents. Meanwhile, Loebsack's three declared challengers have been meeting and greeting Republican activists during the busy Iowa caucus season.  

Iowa's third district Representative Leonard Boswell is a perennial presence on the Frontline list. The DCCC put him there last March, before Iowa's new map of political boundaries had even been released. Boswell will have his hands full next year in the new IA-03 against cash-rich nine-term Republican Tom Latham.

Loebsack was one of five incumbents added to the Frontline program last week, Alex Isenstadt reported on December 30. The new IA-02 leans Democratic with a partisan voting index of D+4. According to the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the 24 counties in the district contained 503,218 active registered voters as of July 2011: 178,562 registered Democrats, 139,359 Republicans, and 184,692 no-party voters.

The geniuses at the DCCC warned Christie Vilsack not to run in the new IA-02, seeking to avoid an expensive Democratic primary battle. I wonder how much the committee will end up spending here anyway. In 2010, the DCCC made about $588,000 in independent expenditures in IA-02, mostly on negative advertising against GOP candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

Some of Loebsack's recent votes in Congress suggest that he is trying to pre-empt conservative attacks. He voted with House Republicans for a balanced budget constitutional amendment, a bill to block phantom EPA regulations on "farm dust," and a bill to reduce federal regulations on small businesses.

In recent weeks Loebsack has also sought maximum publicity for his work on the conference committee that negotiated the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Over the weekend, President Barack Obama signed that bill into law, prompting yet another press release on the subject from Loebsack's Congressional office:

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement as the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law.  The legislation contains many of Loebsack's top priorities, including support for the Rock Island Arsenal and expanded mental health care and suicide prevention access for the National Guard and Reserve.  Loebsack, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, was a member of the conference committee that negotiated the final version of the bill.

"I am glad the President signed into law these important provisions for our National Guard and Reserve, military families, and the Rock Island Arsenal," said Loebsack.  "These provisions serve as a great example of the work that can be accomplished when Congress works in a bipartisan fashion.   The bill ensures our troops and military families have the resources they need, and at the same time, it will strengthen our economy here at home."

Also included in the legislation are provisions to give the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; funding for National Guard equipment; a 1.6 percent pay raise for our troops; and significant improvements to military sexual assault and harassment prevention and response policies.

Can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed that the former politics professor Loebsack has no apparent concern about former constitutional law professor Obama signing indefinite military detention powers into law. It's all good, as long as the money keeps flowing to the Rock Island Arsenal.

The three Republicans challenging Loebsack have been attending various public events, GOP committee meetings, and fundraisers this fall. While the Iowa caucus campaign focused attention on the presidential race, it also gives down-ticket candidates lots of opportunities to meet rank and file Republicans.

John Archer, senior legal counsel for the John Deere company, has some yard and barn signs up already, judging from photos posted to his campaign's Facebook page. Among Loebsack's challengers, Archer raised the most money during the third quarter, and he appears to have the most support from the GOP establishment. Rick Santorum was a featured speaker at a December 20 campaign event in Archer's Bettendorf home. State Senators Roby Smith and Jim Hahn also attended that event, and the host committee included Iowa House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann, State Senator Sandy Greiner, Iowa State University women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly, and well-known GOP activists Joni Scotter, Steve Grubbs, and Brian Kennedy.

Rick Perry praised Archer by name at a December 27 event for Perry's presidential campaign. The Texas governor lamented the fact that John Deere has to spend money on "regulations that frankly don't help anybody except some government bureaucrat somewhere."

To my knowledge, Archer has not endorsed a presidential candidate. I will update this post if he responds to my request for confirmation.

Dan Dolan owns a company that built housing developments in several eastern Iowa cities. His campaign website doesn't have any content yet besides a donate button and a sign-in form, but the candidate has been updating his Facebook page. Last month, Dolan's public appearances included a Perry campaign event featuring Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in Clinton, a Newt Gingrich event in Davenport, and Muscatine Republican Women's Christmas Coffee. At those and other events, Dolan signed up volunteers to help his campaign or put up a yard sign before the primary.

To my knowledge, Dolan has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidate. I will update this post if I can confirm that information.

Richard Gates, a machinist from Keokuk, is the IA-02 candidate most involved with the tea party. Before embarking on his Congressional campaign, Gates was the Iowa director for Fair Tax. (The so-called "fair tax" would in effect replace the federal income tax with a nationwide value-added tax.) Gates has also been active in Glenn Beck's 912 project.

Speaking to me by phone on December 31, Gates said he had attended Republican or tea party events in about 10 counties this fall. He predicted that pace of the IA-02 campaign will pick up "on Wednesday morning" (that is, after the Iowa caucuses). He plans to caucus at his precinct on January 3 but has not endorsed any presidential candidate.

Gates posts occasionally to a blog on his campaign website. I thought he made a strong case against Rick Perry's "part-time Congress" spiel. In Gates' view, Congress has delegated too much authority to federal agencies, and the White House has grabbed too much power.

I won't be baited on feel good campaigning that will hurt our ability to be fully represented.

When your house is on fire, it's not a good time to lay off firemen.

Smaller, more limited government does not mean a simple shift to a more centralized government. We have a lot of work to do. Let's get serious and make real changes by reeling in the power of the executive branch, and electing a vigorous congress to right the wrongs of decades of big government.

Gates is the clear underdog in the IA-02 primary, based on his meager fundraising during the third quarter. To win the nomination, he would probably need Dolan and Archer to split the Scott County vote, in addition to a strong grassroots network district-wide.

Any comments about the IA-02 campaign are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Archer's campaign announced on January 3 that this television commercial will run district-wide during the evening, as Republicans return from their precinct caucuses and watch the news for results.

My rough transcript:

Archer, sitting at a kitchen table, speaking to the camera: Tonight, Iowa Republicans took the first step in defeating President Obama. Tomorrow, we begin the hard work of replacing Congressman Dave Loebsack.

Hi, I'm John Archer. Making a change this election year in the White House and Congress will determine whether or not our country proceeds down the path of failed, European socialism or the path of free markets and free people.

I say, let's make our country competitive again. Let's choose freedom.

I'm John Archer, and I approved this message.

UPDATE: The Archer campaign confirmed that this commercial will run tonight on the Fox News cable network district-wide, including the following markets: Quad Cities, Iowa City, Ottumwa, Burlington, Pella, Newton, and Chariton. Sounds like a good investment to me.

LATE UPDATE: Dolan's Facebook page indicates that he and his wife volunteered at West Middle School's caucus location in Muscatine on the night of January 3: "Shook hundreds of hands and met new supporters!"

  • Archer

    I expect Archer to be the nominee.  I haven't heard as much from Dan Dolan, not sure if his company's needs have prevented him from campaigning as vigorously or not.  

    • has Archer been campaigning in your area

      or have you seen any signs for him?

      The next set of FEC reports should be interesting. In the 3Q Dolan made a big contribution to his own campaign but otherwise didn't raise anything.  

      • Yeo

        Yes, I've heard about a couple of events in Henry County, but I don't know if those were fundraisers or what.  

  • Archer

    seems way more conservative to me than Miller-Meeks...

    Of course the new IA-2 is not as democratic as the old district, but it still seems a very uphill battle for a conservative Republican to win a D+4 district in a presidential election year, that will probably bring very high turnout in Johnson County.

    Which brings me to the point that Loebsack - who seemed at firsthand a good fit for the district - is just not a very skilled politician. Not only has Braley compared to Loebsack more rising star potential, he also seems to have more guts than Loebsack. Btw. I'm still wondering if the district had a more liberal representative if Leach had hung on in 2006 and would still be representing the district today (maybe as a Democrat?)

    Of the five Democrats that were named part of the frontline programm Sutton faces GOP Incumbent Jim Renacci in OH 16th district, which seems slightly Republican leaning. Barrows district (GA 12) went from 54-45 Obama to 56-44 McCain, so these two seem obvious choices. Of the two California Dems that were added Garamendi (CA 3 - 55-42 Obama) and Capps (CA 24 - 56-41 Obama) at least Capps seems to have drawn a very credible opponent in former Lt Governor Maldonado.

    This leaves Garamendi and Loebsack as the two "weird" choices for the frontline programm (btw the new Iowa 2 voted Obama over McCain 57-41). This brings me to conclude that the DCCC either sees their districts trending Republican (what I don't think is the case in IA 2), or that Garamendi and Loebsack have drawn hard opponents combined with the tendency to underperform their districts leaning.

    • Very true

      Dave doesn't really inspire anyone, he's very boring on the stump.  You can have a good story and say the right things, cast the right votes, but Dave can't rally the troops like even candidates on the local level can.

      Archer probably feels that he has to run to the right off MM.  I never was quite able to gather why MM was vilified by some on the right.  I guess there must be a lot of silly people out there who automatically hear woman and doctor and some how think they must be unsympathetic to people of faith.  Dmd was always on the mark with her analysis of the GOP base's skepticism of MM, but the GOP never really were called to task for that garbage.  

    • Scott County

      swung toward the GOP in the 2010 election, and it's the largest population center in the new IA-02, so maybe that's why they are nervous. Loebsack has never been a huge fundraiser; he may need DCCC help to buy ads in the Quad City market.

      • Scott County

        that's a good point. I was wondering if they recruited Archer to run up a not so small margin in Scott County and thus be competitive. If Loebsack is able to win Scott County or even if he just loses by a bit, he'll be winning reelection.

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