The plot thickens in Iowa's second Congressional district, where Steve Rathje has released a new television commercial called "Bench Miller-Meeks":
Voice-over: Two years ago, Mariannette Miller-Meeks challenged Dave Loebsack. She lost by double digits. [visual shows fake newspaper headline: LOEBSACK WINS BIG Loebsack 57% vs. Miller-Meeks 38%]
Rathje: I coached football for several years, and sometimes the returning quarterback didn't give us our best opportunity to win, so we were forced to make some changes. I believe the same is true for politics.
I'm Steve Rathje. My experience: cutting spending and bringing jobs back home to America. Dave Loebsack's record: unsustainable spending and a disregard for the constitution.
I'm Steve Rathje, and I approved this message.
It's gutsy for Rathje to come out against second chances, since he lost the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2008. But as attack ads go, this one's tame. He didn't take any personal shots at Miller-Meeks or even call her a moderate. He's just saying she doesn't give Republicans the best opportunity to beat Loebsack. Then he presents his background as a sharp contrast to the incumbent.
I laughed to hear Rathje hit Loebsack on "unsustainable spending." Rathje's promoting a tax holiday plan that would add at least $400 billion to the deficit in two months. Such details probably don't matter to the typical Republican primary voter, though.
Yesterday I wrote that I still consider Miller-Meeks a slight favorite in the primary. This commercial changes my view somewhat. If she sticks to her plan of running no tv ads before the June 8 primary, she leaves this message unchallenged. It's not clear that she has the time or the funds to respond on television, and even if she does, I don't know how to answer Rathje's point without calling more attention to her double-digit loss to Loebsack. Miller-Meeks seems slightly less right-wing than the other Republicans, which makes her a better general election candidate, but no one won a Republican primary lately by claiming to be the most moderate person in the field.
My hunch is that Rob Gettemy benefits as much as Rathje from this commercial, if not more. Gettemy's the freshest face in the Republican field, and his own advertising probably gives him as much visibility as Rathje outside his base in Linn County.
What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?
UPDATE: The second district candidates clashed at a forum May 26 in Mount Pleasant. James Q. Lynch has the story at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Excerpt:
Gettemy told the crowd of about 100 people sitting on the lawn outside American Outdoors south of Mount Pleasant he offers the best opportunity to defeat Loebsack because voters are looking for a fresh face, "not a politician."
His rivals have all run before and lost - "lost big time," Gettemy said.
Without mentioning names, he noted that Rathje and Reed, who faced off in a U.S. Senate primary two years ago, are still fighting that battle and Miller-Meeks is willing to change her comments to suit various audiences. [...]
"You can tell it's campaign silly season, Miller-Meeks said. "I've been smeared so many times that I feel like a bug on a windshield."
She called for uniting the fiscal, social and constitutional conservatives. "We need all three tent poles" to defeat Loebsack, she said. Miller-Meeks and reminded her rivals that "whatever we do before the primary can be used by the Democrats after the primary."
United, Miller-Meeks said, the 2nd District can become "the Massachusetts of the Midwest - not in ideology, but in victory."
Also, Kim Smith of Cedar Rapids claims Rathje is pro-abortion and is trying to spread the word on Twitter and via YouTube. I don't know whether she or the group calling itself "Coalition for Iowa Values" has endorsed a different candidate in this primary.
SECOND UPDATE: Miller-Meeks responds to the new Rathje ad:
Miller-Meeks called the video "a deceitful, deceptive attack by someone going into a last minute panic" and threw the football analogies back at Rathje.
"So we're supposed to pick someone who has been sitting on the bench and couldn't win his primary after running for two years rather than someone who has been playing the game?" she asked. [...]
Rathje was the first to run TV ads and Gettemy followed. Reed plans to air aids in June. Miller-Meeks doesn't plan to run TV ads, preferring to focus her advertising, primarily direct mail, on likely primary voters.
"I have the resources to do what we need," she said. Referring to her professional training as an ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks said she works with lasers and prefers a laser focus over a scattershot approach.
"I look at the audience to determine the best method to reach the primary voters and to get them to the polls," she said.