Sure, we’ve just completed our primary election process, but it’s already a good bet Iowa will command serious national attention leading up to the midterm elections in November.
Iowa’s 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts loom large nationally as Democrats aim to flip the Republican-controlled Congress. A potentially competitive gubernatorial race will also contribute to an extra busy campaign season across our state.
So, it’s not too early to brace yourself for the advertising blitz.
In the 1st District, Democratic state Rep. Abby Finkenauer earned the right to challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Prior to the primary, both the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics Crystal Ball called the district a tossup for November.
Those two organizations also predict a close race in the 3rd District, where it was determined Tuesday that Democrat Cindy Axne will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Young.
Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell advanced Tuesday to take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in her first election test.
Reynolds is reasonably popular in Iowa, with approval ratings that outdistance disapproval ratings, but like all Republican candidates in tight races across the country, could face a “Trump problem.”
These state-level races in the midterms should keep Iowa in the national news, as well as widen the cash conduits from outside of the state and into Iowa campaigns.
For us, at this admittedly early juncture, the most intriguing matchup seems to be the 1st District race between Blum and Finkenauer.
It could very well be reminiscent of the 2014 midterm battle for one of Iowa’s U.S. Senate seats between then-Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat, and eventual winner Joni Ernst.
That particular race brought unprecedented amounts of outside money into an Iowa midterm battle. Should this 2018 version indeed turn into a tossup race, it will undoubtedly do the same — as well as lure heavy-hitting and high-profile politicians to the state on behalf of both candidates.
In 2014, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Michelle Obama made appearances in the state in support of Braley. Conversely, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham came to Iowa to stump for Ernst.
It was a tough race that required relentless campaigning, touring and discussions across the state.
With that hindsight, we don’t envy any of the candidates in toss-up races. It’s going to take hard work. But voters need to work as well. We need to elect people who are going to represent Iowans. Taking stock in negative ads and out-of-context snippets may not be the best way to determine which candidate is best suited to do that.
Pay attention, and do your homework.
The Ernst/Braley midterm race was one for the books, costing around $85 million. The sequel may be coming sooner than anticipated. Like those 2014 midterms, we can expect large amounts of outside money to flow into the competitive campaigns. That’s simply how our political game is being played these days — from both sides of the political spectrum.
With that kind of money on the line — not to mention potential congressional control — we expect the arrows coming out of those campaigns to be plenty sharp this year. We challenge voters to take higher ground on the civility scale than we expect from the campaigns.
As the money piled up back in 2014, University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer stated:
“It’s just this massive blitz of media everywhere, and we’re just not used to seeing it in a midterm election.”
Well, at least we have some practice for this next midterm go-round.