Two of Iowa’s four U.S. House districts are among the 31 top targets for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee next cycle.
On April 3, Sahil Kapur of NBC News was first to publish the Democratic target list. It includes Iowa’s first and third districts, now represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Zach Nunn.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director Julie Merz told NBC that Democrats will present their candidates “as ‘team normal’ against a chaotic band of “MAGA extremists” they say have taken over the House Republican conference.”
“There are no more Republican moderates. They had an opportunity very early in the speaker’s vote to stand up to the most vocal MAGA extremists and say, ‘This isn’t OK. This isn’t the direction we want our caucus to go.’ And they folded,” Merz said.
Miller-Meeks survived the country’s closest U.S. House election in 2020, winning her first term in Congress in what was then called IA-02 by six votes out of more than 394,000 cast. Voters in IA-01 (as it is known following redistricting) re-elected the Republican by about 20,000 votes last year, a margin of 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent for Democrat Christina Bohannan.
In addition to the advantages of incumbency, Miller-Meeks was able to outspend Bohannan by more than $1.5 million, according to the OpenSecrets database. The outside spending favored Miller-Meeks as well by nearly $1.7 million, as Democratic-aligned groups largely abandoned the IA-01 challenger.
Nunn defeated two-term Democratic incumbent Cindy Axne in IA-03 last November by a little more than 2,000 votes: 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent. He benefited from relatively weak Democratic turnout as well as the lack of a third-party option on the ballot. Axne had won her 2018 and 2020 races with just under 50 percent of votes cast, thanks in part to votes cast for Libertarian and other candidates.
National election forecasters see Miller-Meeks and Nunn as favored in 2024, but have identified their districts as potentially competitive. IA-01 is seen as “likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. Cook and Sabato now rate IA-03 as a “lean Republican” race, while Inside Elections lists Nunn in the purpler “tilt Republican” category.
Analysis by the nonpartisan website Split Ticket concluded that both Miller-Meeks and Nunn underperformed in 2022. Split Ticket’s model suggested that Bohannan’s vote share was higher than expected by about 2.7 percent, and Axne exceeded expectations (based on the state’s political environment and other factors) by about 2.6 percent.
To my knowledge, no Democrats have announced plans to run against Miller-Meeks or Nunn next year. I am not aware of Bohannan or Axne ruling out a rematch.
The first district is more difficult territory for a candidate trying to establish name recognition, because its 20 counties are located in five media markets. In contrast, the vast majority of Nunn’s constituents can be reached through Des Moines-based television and radio stations. About three-quarters of IA-03 voters live in Polk or Dallas counties, containing most of the Des Moines metro area.
The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that Republicans have slightly more “active” registered voters in IA-01 and IA-03. But Democrats have a small advantage in both districts if all registered voters are counted, including those now marked “inactive” because they did not cast a ballot in the 2022 midterms.
Voter turnout is typically much higher in a presidential election cycle, so many of Iowa’s inactive voters will likely participate in the November 2024 election.
Final note: The DCCC is not targeting two-term Representative Ashley Hinson in IA-02. That district is “likely Republican” for Sabato and Inside Elections, but not on the competitive list for Cook Political. Hinson was able to win by around 32,000 votes (55.2 percent to 44.8 percent), and outspent her 2022 challenger Liz Mathis by about $3 million. Outside groups provided about $3.4 million in assistance to Hinson as well.