IA-05: Closing arguments for Steve King and Matt Campbell

Lots of Democrats have had a tough year, but few candidates faced a more difficult task than Matt Campbell. He’s challenging Representative Steve King, who won his previous four elections in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district with 62 percent, 63 percent, 59 percent, and 60 percent of the vote. Campbell isn’t just running for Congress in a Republican year, he’s running in Iowa’s most conservative U.S. House district (partisan voting index R+8). IA-05 also happens to be Iowa’s largest Congressional district (32 counties) and the most expensive district for advertising. Campbell’s opportunities for raising his name recognition were limited, because King maintained his perfect record of never debating an opponent. All four other U.S. House incumbents debated their challengers at least once.

King was so relaxed about his re-election campaign that he spent most of last week touring other parts of Iowa with the anti-retention Judge Bus.

Follow me after the jump for video clips, transcripts and some comments about King and Campbell outreach to voters in IA-05.

King started advertising on television later than Iowa’s other members of Congress. When he did go up on the air, the message was simple. These two 15-second spots started running around October 21:

My transcript:

Huge bill labeled “STIMULUS” is dropped, making a loud noise. King’s voice comes from off-camera: “We didn’t like it.”

Huge bill labeled “ENERGY CAP & TRADE” comes crashing down. King comments, “We fought against it.”

Huge bill labeled “HEALTHCARE” drops. King says, “And now we have to fix it.”

King speaks to camera: On November second, let’s start a new day in America. I’m Steve King, and I approved this message. [words on screen: KING CONGRESS PAID FOR BY KING FOR CONGRESS APPROVED BY STEVE KING]

The second is similar:

Huge bill labeled “T.A.R.P” is dropped, making a loud noise. King’s voice comes from off-camera: “We didn’t like it.”

Huge bill labeled “ENERGY CAP & TRADE” comes crashing down. King comments, “We fought against it.”

Huge bill labeled “HEALTHCARE” drops. King says, “And now we have to fix it.”

King speaks to camera: Together we can reclaim America’s future. I’m Steve King, I approved this message, let’s get to work. [words on screen: KING CONGRESS PAID FOR BY KING FOR CONGRESS APPROVED BY STEVE KING]

I have to give the man credit: these are effective ads for the conservative district King represents. King has very few legislative achievements, so it makes sense for him to focus on opposing the Democratic agenda.

King’s 30-second tv ad is called A New Day:

My transcript:

King speaks to camera as upbeat soundtrack plays: Two years ago, during the panic of the financial crisis, I said to Iowans, “No matter how bad this gets, we will weather these times better than anyone.

“We are closer to the wealth that comes from our land. [footage of corn being harvested in field, words “Our Land” on screen]

“We are more prudent, and we are strong in our faith.” [footage of a family walking together outdoors, words “Our People” and “Our Faith” on screen]

King speaking to camera again: These words are just as true today. In November, we start a new day in America. You know where I stand. I’ve worked a lifetime to be prepared for the battles ahead. I’m Steve King, and I approved this message.

Nothing fancy, but probably quite effective in a district where voters never backed President Obama’s agenda, even in 2008. While Representative Tom Latham tends to keep his head down and avoid making controversy, King has always been a happy partisan warrior. If Republicans take back the House, King will be right in the middle of the battles ahead. He will also become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration.

King’s campaign has been running radio ads in Des Moines, and I assume district-wide, during the last week or so. One is about the Iowa Supreme Court retention elections; it uses the exact same script I posted here, except that at the end it says “paid for by King for Congress.” The other is about jobs, the economy, and the federal budget. I don’t have the script for that one.

At the end of September, King’s campaign had about $391,000 cash on hand, while Campbell had just under $31,000 cash on hand and $38,000 in debts. Campbell managed to go up on television for just two days before the election, and I don’t think he hit every market in the district. Here is his commercial:

My transcript:

Campbell speaking to camera: Hi. I’m Matt Campbell, and I’m fighting for working families and to bring good jobs to our communities. [words near bottom of screen: Matt Campbell for U.S. Congress MattCampbellforCongress.com ]

Think you know Steve King? Think again.

He benefited from 140 thousand dollars in illegal campaign expenditures in 2002. [words on screen: Steve King’s Record Benefited from $140,000 dollars in illegal campaign expenditures in 2002. Source in small print near bottom: FEC vs. Club for Growth, US District Court for the District of Columbia, CV 05-01851 (RMU)]

He took three student deferments during the Vietnam War and has an F voting record on veterans’ issues. [words on screen: He took 3 student deferments during the Vietnam War and has an F voting record on veteran’s issues. Source in small print near the bottom: National Archives and Records Administration, Classification Record (SSS Form 102), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America 2010 Congressional Report Card]

And his national sales tax proposal is actually an unfair 30 percent tax on working families. [words on screen: His national sales tax proposal is actually an unfair 30% tax on working families. Source in small print near the bottom: FactCheck.org article, May 31, 2007.]

With a record like that, no wonder Steve King doesn’t want to debate. [photo of Campbell standing in front of GOP office, holding sign that says, “Seen Steve?” words on screen: No wonder Steve King doesn’t want to debate]

Campbell speaking to camera again: For a representative you can be proud of, vote for Matt Campbell on November second. I’m Matt Campbell, and I approved this message. [words on screen: Vote Matt Campbell for Congress on Nov. 2nd MattCampbellforCongress.com ]

In an ideal world, Campbell would have the resources to develop arguments against King in separate ads instead of cramming them into 30 seconds two days before the election. I don’t understand the choices here. The illegal campaign expenditures in 2002 seem to be a Club for Growth problem, not a violation of the law by King’s campaign. I wouldn’t bother talking about King’s Vietnam-era draft deferments either. That is old news.

Campbell’s website contains a long list of issues on which he disagrees with King. He could talk about how he supports changes to keep the Social Security trust fund solvent, while King “is part of the crowd that wants to raise full retirement age for Social Security to age 70 or to reduce benefits.”

Or, Campbell could focus on how King’s voted for war funding but against money for programs that support veterans (F rating from veterans group). The hypocritical King bashed the 2009 stimulus bill, then took credit for stimulus funding to widen Highway 20 in northwest Iowa.

A couple of other angles might be effective too. King spends too much time saying outrageous things on national television and not enough time delivering for his constituents. Even the Sioux City Journal, which has always endorsed King for Congress, admitted that he isn’t a good representative:

Still, as we have said in this space before (including in past endorsements of him), we believe his continuing combative style and penchant for inflammatory rhetoric hinder King’s effectiveness and work to the detriment of our district. Simply put, we would like to see and hear less incendiary language from him. […] Also, we’d like for King to focus less on moving the nation’s political center to the right, as he described his goal to us during an editorial board discussion, and focus more on the day-to-day needs, challenges and priorities of the families, farms and businesses of the 5th District.

In recent weeks Campbell’s campaign has publicized endorsements from several Republicans in the fifth district. A script for a good ad could be adapted slightly from this campaign press release of October 25:

Campbell today announced two additional endorsements to add to Campbell’s growing list of Republican supporters.  Current Spencer mayor Reynold Peterson and former Iowa state senator Dave Mulder of Orange City have endorsed Campbell to be the next 5th District representative.

Peterson and Mulder join other Republicans such as former Lt. Governor Art Neu, Council Bluffs Mayor Pro Tem Matt Walsh, Spencer businessman Toby Shine and Red Oak community activist Lisa Vetter in endorsing Campbell.

Campbell says, “The Republicans that are endorsing me are uniform in their sentiment.  They are tired of the polarizing tone from Steve King and his absolute lack of productivity for the district.  Regardless of party affiliation Iowans recognize there is work to be done that King isn’t doing.”

Ultimately, there’s nothing Campbell could have done to defeat King this year, but Iowa’s new maps could make King’s district somewhat less conservative in 2012. Whoever takes him on should focus on what he has and hasn’t done in Congress, not whether he evaded the draft during Vietnam.

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