IA-01: Ben Lange rolls out endorsements

This morning Ben Lange announced a “steering committee” of 57 Republicans supporting his campaign in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Lange’s endorsers include nine local or county elected officials, three former state legislators, six current or former chairs of county Republican parties, five former candidates for state or federal offices, and seven “tea party” or “9/12 group” activists. About half of the steering committee members live in either Linn, Black Hawk or Dubuque counties, which are home to roughly half of the registered Republicans in the new IA-01.

I’ve posted the full list of Lange endorsers below, along with background on some of the politicians named. The Lange campaign didn’t respond to my request for comment on rival candidate Rod Blum’s suggestion that Lange lacks the experience or record of accomplishments to be a strong Congressional candidate. I haven’t seen any rebuttals to Blum on Lange’s campaign website or Facebook page either. In a sense, rolling this steering committee is an indirect answer to Blum: dozens of committed Republican activists see something in Lange worth supporting.

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NRCC credibility on the line in Iowa's second and third districts

Washington Republicans have been talking up their chances of retaking the House of Representatives for months, and the National Republican Congressional Committee claims many recruiting successes in competitive House districts. However, Republican primary voters haven’t always sided with candidates favored by the Washington power-brokers. Last month a tea party candidate defeated “top national GOP recruit” Vaughn Ward in Idaho’s first district. In Kentucky’s third district, the NRCC’s candidate finished third with 17 percent in the primary; the winner had over 50 percent. In Pennsylvania’s fourth district, the NRCC-backed candidate was out-raised and eventually beaten 2-1 in the Republican primary. In Alabama’s fifth district, the NRCC backed party-switching Representative Parker Griffith, who proceeded to get crushed in his new party’s primary.

In Iowa, the NRCC has tipped its hat to two Republicans in competitive primaries. In the third district, Jim Gibbons was named an “on the radar” candidate in February and bumped up to “contender” status in April. In the second district, the NRCC put Gettemy “on the radar” about six weeks after he declared his candidacy.

Both Gibbons and Gettemy are newcomers to campaigning, and both are facing at least one more experienced politician in their primaries. Gibbons’ main rival, State Senator Brad Zaun, has won several elections in Urbandale and Iowa Senate district 32. All three of Gettemy’s opponents have run for office before, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Christopher Reed both won Republican primaries in 2008.

If Gibbons and Gettemy fail to top the voting in their respective primaries, the NRCC’s ability to identify candidates with strong potential will again be called into question. The “young gun,” “contender” and “on the radar” lists are important signals to NRCC donors about where their money could be most helpful. People who wrote checks to Gibbons or Gettemy without knowing anything about the local landscape may be upset if their money went to a losing candidate.

Iowa Republicans who recruited Gibbons and Gettemy and talked them up to GOP leaders in Washington also have something to lose if today’s primaries don’t go their way. Key members of the Iowa Republican business elite have supported Gibbons, and Gettemy had the backing of prominent Cedar Rapids area Republicans. Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, who heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, is also said to be close to Gettemy, though Scheffler has made no formal endorsement in this year’s primaries.

Both the IA-03 and IA-02 primary battles may end up being settled at GOP district conventions, so Gibbons and Gettemy could conceivably win the nominations if they don’t finish in first place today, as long as no other Republican receives at least 35 percent of the vote. However, they may have an uphill battle persuading district convention delegates.

WEDNESDAY AM UPDATE: Add IA-02 and IA-03 to the list of districts where the NRCC sure doesn’t know how to pick ’em.

Zaun won 42 percent of the vote in the seven-way IA-03 primary, while Gibbons managed just 28 percent. Tea Party favorite Dave Funk didn’t raise enough money for a significant paid media campaign, but he finished not far behind Gibbons with 22 percent. Gibbons did carry several of the smaller counties in IA-03, but Zaun dominated Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. Zaun’s ground game defeated Gibbons’ superior “air power.”

Miller-Meeks won the IA-02 primary in dominating fashion with 51 percent of the vote. She led in all of the district’s 11 counties. Gettemy finished dead last with 13 percent of the vote. Even in his home county (Linn), he came in third. Gettemy won fewer votes across the district than Christopher Reed, who raised very little money and is best known for for calling Senator Harkin “the Tokyo Rose of Al-Qaeda and Middle East terrorism” during the 2008 campaign. All of Gettemy’s tv ads and connections to Cedar Rapids movers and shakers delivered fewer votes than Reed managed with his band of way-out-there wingnut endorsers.  

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Weekend open thread: Election prediction contest edition

It’s time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. No prizes will be awarded, but winners will get bragging rights. Can anyone dethrone American007, overall winner of our 2008 election contest?

Enter by answering the following questions. To qualify for the contest, your predictions must be posted as a comment in this thread by 7 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. This isn’t like The Price is Right; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether or not they were a little high or low.

1. How many votes will be cast in the Republican primary for Iowa governor? (Hint: about 199,000 Iowans voted in the hard-fought 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary.)

2. What percentages of the vote will Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts receive in the Republican primary for governor?

3. What percentages of the vote will Roxanne Conlin, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen receive in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate?

4. What percentages of the vote will Rob Gettemy, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Steve Rathje and Chris Reed receive in the Republican primary in Iowa’s second Congressional district? Remember, if you expect this nomination to be decided at a district convention, make sure your guess has the top vote-getter below 35 percent.

5. Who will be the top four candidates in the Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and what percentages of the vote will they receive? Again, keep the top vote-getter below 35 percent if you expect this nomination to go to a district convention. Your possible answers are Jim Gibbons, Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Mark Rees, Scott Batcher, Jason Welch and Pat Bertroche.

6. What percentages of the vote will Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell receive in the Democratic primary in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district?

7. What percentages of the vote will Matt Schultz, George Eichhorn and Chris Sanger receive in the Republican primary for secretary of state? (I covered that campaign in this post.)

8. What percentages of the vote will Dave Jamison and Jim Heavens receive in the Republican primary for state treasurer? (The Iowa Republican blog has been covering this race from time to time.)

9. What percentages of the vote will State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and challenger Clair Rudison receive in the Democratic primary for Iowa House district 66? (Click here for background.)

10. What percentages of the vote will Tom Shaw, Stephen Richards and Alissa Wagner receive in the Republican primary for Iowa House district 8? (Click here and here for background. Keep in mind that although Wagner withdrew from the race and endorsed Shaw, her name will remain on the ballot.)

Don’t be afraid to make some wild guesses. You can’t win if you don’t play!

This is also an open thread, so share whatever’s on your mind.

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Rathje wants Republicans to bench Miller-Meeks

The plot thickens in Iowa’s second Congressional district, where Steve Rathje has released a new television commercial called “Bench Miller-Meeks”:

Rough transcript:

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.

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