Final IA-02 news roundup: Little suspense for Loebsack

Going into election day two years ago, Representative Dave Loebsack appeared to be in real danger of losing his seat in Congress. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was running attack ads against Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who had loaned her campaign about a half-million dollars in the absence of major financial support from the National Republican Congressional Committee. The American Future Fund was bashing Loebsack on television. Loebsack ended up winning re-election by only about 11,500 votes in what should have been a safe Democratic district. If not for the Iowa Democrats’ early voting program, Loebsack might have been swept up by the wave.

This year’s campaign in Iowa’s second Congressional district is winding up without the suspense of 2010. A final review of Loebsack’s race against Republican John Archer is after the jump.

The latest voter registration numbers show that the 24 counties in IA-02 contain 174,321 Democrats, 141,890 Republicans, and 181,053 no-party voters.

The early voting numbers tilt heavily to Loebsack. As of November 3, county auditors in IA-02 had received 80,572 ballots from registered Democrats, 50,452 from Republicans, and 48,385 from no-party voters.

In August, the Rothenberg Political Report put IA-02 on its competitive seats list as a “Democrat-favored” district. As of last week, that ranking hadn’t changed, but in mid-October,

Stuart Rothenberg of the Political Report wrote that he’s “been struck by a handful of races that I assumed I wouldn’t be watching at this point but that are now intriguing.” Even in cases where the favored candidate may win, he found them “worth watching.” […]

“Some folks (Democrats and Republicans) might put Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) in Iowa’s 2nd on the list, and his race bears watching. But what I’ve seen so far in polling doesn’t currently justify putting challenger John Archer (R) on the list of potential upset winners.”

Around the same time, the Cook Political Report upgraded IA-02 from “lean Democratic” to “likely Democratic.” Loebsack’s race went from 63rd on the National Journal’s August list of seats that might change hands to 61st in early October before dropping off the final pre-election version of that list, compiled by Scott Bland.

Going into the last five weeks of the campaign, Loebsack had more than four times as much money to spend as Archer. The challenger didn’t receive much help through independent expenditures to help him close the gap. Other than a little spending by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action on mailings and phone calls, conservative advocacy groups have left Archer to fend for himself since mid-October. Although the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Archer last month, they haven’t invested in his candidacy the way they’ve supported Representative Steve King by running attack ads on Christie Vilsack.

To my knowledge, Archer’s campaign produced only two television commercials during the general election period. Bleeding Heartland discussed those here and here. Neither ran district-wide–I never saw them on network television in the Des Moines market, which reaches several counties in the western part of IA-02. The National Republican Congressional Committee ran some ads against Loebsack in September and October, but only on Quad Cities television, not district-wide.

Loebsack has been advertising across the second district. His campaign launched a negative spot called “Fifty Percent” on October 19.

My transcript:

Loebsack’s voice: I’m Dave Loebsack, and I approve this message. [photo of Loebsack leaning against a pickup truck on a farm, listening to someone]

Male voice-over: They fought for us. Paid into Medicare every paycheck. [black and white footage of soldiers in battle, workers on a factory floor decades ago]

But John Archer thinks veterans and seniors are dependent and weak for using Medicare, Social Security, and the veterans benefits they earned. [Footage of John Archer speaking, JOHN ARCHER on screen; then view of a man in a VFW cap, labeled DEPENDENT; then view of senior citizens, word “WEAKNESS” on screen; footage of a different veteran in an AMVETS cap]

John Archer’s voice: You have an entitlement society. [photo of Archer sitting at desk doing radio appearance; words on screen JOHN ARCHER Source KROS 5/2/12]

Archer’s voice continues: You have about 50 percent of the American population now, believes that they are entitled to a government handout. That’s a real weakness. [as camera pans over group of veterans standing in front of large American flag, following words on screen appear: “50% of the American population” JOHN ARCHER; then “Entitled” JOHN ARCHER; then “Weakness” JOHN ARCHER; Source KROS 5/2/12]

Male voice-over: John Archer’s just not for us. [footage of Archer talking, words on screen JOHN ARCHER NOT FOR US]

Obviously, Loebsack was trying to tap into the outrage over Mitt Romney’s videotaped comments about the “47 percent.” I haven’t seen this ad on television during the last couple of weeks, though. Perhaps Loebsack put more money behind it in the Quad Cities market, where Archer is better-known.

Before this ad went on the air, Loebsack brought up Archer’s “50 percent” comments during the candidates’ debate on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Here’s how Archer responded:

By no means did my comment mean to insult any military veterans, anybody on Social Security.  My point was that we have more people that are unemployed today, 7.8 percent.  We have more people – almost one in six Americans are on food stamps.  We need to grow this economy.  We need to have pro-growth measures to take those people off of food stamps and get them into the workforce.  That’s what I’ve been talking about.  We need to reduce regulations.  We need to provide certainty with respect to the tax code.  Affordable energy so manufacturers have stability to create jobs, to get people off of welfare and onto the employment line.

Loebsack’s closing tv spot has been in heavy rotation on Des Moines networks lately. Like an ad the incumbent ran earlier this fall, “Create” is half-negative and half-positive.

My transcript:

Male voice-over: Another job shipped overseas. [footage of cargo ship on the ocean]

Everyone loses. Except John Archer. [viewer sees sad-looking woman holding small child, then footage of a smiling John Archer, labeled JOHN ARCHER]

He’s an international corporate executive who supports more unfair trade, with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia [view of globe spinning, words on screen CORPORATE EXECUTIVE JOHN ARCHER SUPPORTS UNFAIR TRADE Source: ARCHER CAMPAIGN EVENT 10/22/11]

and has personal investments in manufacturing in Asia. [globe spins, words on screen JOHN ARCHER INVESTMENTS IN MANUFACTURING IN ASIA Source: ARCHER PERSONAL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE, 11/9/11]

John Archer profits at our expense. [image of hand holding business card that reads John Archer, International Corporate Executive, with a globe logo, and words PROFITS AT OUR EXPENSE under card]

Loebsack: I’m Dave Loebsack, and I approve this message because it’s time to close tax loopholes for corporations that outsource our jobs [Loebsack speaks directly to camera, standing outside with farm in background; then footage of Loebsack speaking with different people; words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK CLOSE LOOPHOLES FOR OUTSOURCING ]

and instead provide incentives for small business to create jobs–in Iowa. [Footage of Loebsack walking and talking with farmer, then talking with small group of people on a farm; Loebsack back on screen speaking last words “in Iowa” directly to camera; words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK CREATE SMALL BUSINESS JOBS IN IOWA]

Some of that footage and script also appeared in a previous Loebsack commercial, but the updated version wisely removed references to outsourcing by Archer’s employer (John Deere).

During their Iowa Public Television debate, the candidates went back and forth over outsourcing and free trade after moderators played the tape of the previous Loebsack campaign ad.

Mr. Archer, the first time you’ve seen that, I’m sure.  Are you part of a corporate culture that is building overseas and moving industrial production off of the United States?

James’ newspaper just reported that’s mostly false.  I’ve been proud to work at John Deere for the past twelve years, one of Iowa’s largest employers.  And when that advertisement came out in 1998 or 1999, I was clerking for an Illinois Supreme Court Justice.  I was not even with the unnamed corporation when those alleged jobs went overseas. With respect to the latter part of that commercial, we all have mutual funds.  We all have holdings in international companies around the world.  So, yes, I’m guilty as charged and I would guarantee that many of the people in this audience and watching this program have diversified.  As a matter of fact, my opponent has diversified his portfolio and has holdings overseas, Dean.  So that ad, unfortunately, is mostly false, and it’s that type of shenanigans that the people of the second district of Iowa are really tired of.

Mr. Loebsack, I guess the question to you is what were you thinking attacking John Deere?

This isn’t about John Deere.

Well, what global corporation were you referencing?

It’s not about John Deere, Kay.  It’s about the policy differences that John Archer and Dave Loebsack have.  That’s what this is about.  It’s about the NAFTA style free trade agreements that John supports that I don’t support.  I voted against three NAFTA style so-called free trade agreements because, as I mentioned in the ad, 11,000 jobs were shipped overseas, Iowa jobs, as a result of NAFTA.  As I look at the so-called free trade agreement or any other policy, for that matter, I have to take into account all of Iowa and all of Iowans, especially in my particular district.  I man not going to vote for something that’s going to ship jobs overseas.  I didn’t vote for those particular so-called free trade agreements.  And it goes beyond that.  It has to do also with the kinds of policies that incentivize and encourage companies to take jobs overseas.  John is for those policies.  I’m not.  That’s what that commercial is about.  It’s about our differences.

Mr. Archer?

But what corporation are you talking about if it’s not John Deere?

It could be any corporation.  The fact of the matter is these policies that John supports, as I said, incentivize and encourage corporations to take jobs overseas.  I think what we have to do is have the policy environment that encourages corporations to bring jobs back, encourages corporations to keep jobs here.  John Deere is a wonderful company.  I’m a native Iowan.  I grew up in Iowa.  I have a John Deere toy in my office.

Then why talk about him being an executive at John Deere in your ad if you weren’t targeting John Deere?

It is his particular policies that we’re talking about here, Kay.  It’s his policies that encourage companies to make those decisions to ship those jobs overseas.

Mr. Archer said a moment ago, guilty as charged.  I believe I heard you say that.  But Mr. Loebsack says this is more than John Deere.  This is a philosophical difference on free trade.

I haven’t heard my opponent said John Deere.  And I think that’s very telling that he will not mention the company that he’s attacking in this ad.  But, yes, it is bigger.  It’s about three free trade agreements.  A trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, Panama and Columbia, which were all supported by former Governor Tom Vilsack, current Ag Secretary Vilsack, supported by the United Auto Workers, specifically the South Korean trade agreement was support by the auto workers, signed by President Obama.  These free trade agreements create thousands of jobs here in America and thousands of jobs here in Iowa. My opponent voted against those jobs.  I find that absolutely wrong.

You’re shaking your head yes.  Go ahead, Jim.

What I was going to say, if I may, it’s not a philosophical difference with respect to free trade.  In theory free trade is a wonderful thing.  The thing is it’s fair trade, and in these particular instances, just like with NAFTA, we’re not talking about fair trade.  We’re talking about agreements that are so-called free trade agreements that will ultimately send thousands of jobs overseas just like NAFTA did, and that’s where were have the difference.

I suspect that most voters in IA-02 would agree with Loebsack rather than Archer regarding trade policy. I still think it was a mistake for Loebsack to bring John Deere into the discussion, even indirectly. Fortunately for him, Archer didn’t have the funds to capitalize on the error.

I’m surprised Loebsack didn’t produce a commercial featuring quotations from his newspaper endorsements this year (Des Moines Register, Burlington Hawk Eye, Quad-City Times, Iowa City Press-Citizen, and Daily Iowan). The Quad-City Times editorial was especially strong, given that the newspaper endorsed Romney for president, and Archer lives in Bettendorf. Excerpt:

Rep. Dave Loebsack established an incumbent’s edge here by learning and adopting a Q-C agenda and reaching out to all levels of our community on both sides of the river. That diligence and outreach earns Loebsack our endorsement over strong Republican challenger John Archer. […]

But [Archer’s] thin familiarity and flagging support of long-established local initiatives raised concerns. Archer told us he was willing to put the brakes on Interstate 74 bridge funding and opposes Amtrak rail service to the Quad-Cities, two projects that have enjoyed deep support through our community and require further support in Congress.

While we appreciate Archer’s candor in our interviews, we cannot send a congressman to Washington who threatens to undo decades of bipartisan Quad-City work.

Instead, we’re eager to see Loebsack continue to push for these initiatives and the Arsenal advocacy partnership he led with Rep. Bobby Schilling. Loebsack’s bipartisan leadership presented a unified front for the Quad-Cities’ top item on its growth agenda.

We believe Loebsack would return to Capitol Hill with much more knowledge and deeper relationships with Quad-City leaders of all parties.

He also would return to Washington without his fingerprints on the disastrous Budget Control Act, the doomsday bill that established automatic, devastating cuts Jan. 2 unless Congress acted responsibly.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette, which endorsed Loebsack in 2010, went with Archer this year, saying he “would bring new energy, valuable large and small-business background, well-tested negotiating skills, and a fresh pair of eyes to persistent problems facing the country.” The editors added that Loebsack has worked hard and done much to support veterans,

But we expected more impact in Washington from a third-term congressman. Loebsack’s voting record also shows that he rarely strays from his party when voting on legislation. We don’t see that he’s given voters enough compelling reasons to send him back to Washington for two more years.

Archer must regret that he doesn’t have the funds to put that message in front of more voters in IA-02. The Cedar Rapids Gazette isn’t widely read in the district outside Johnson County, where Loebsack will have a big advantage.

Any comments about the Loebsack-Archer race are welcome in this thread.

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