Iowa, the first state to complete redistricting and pass a new Congressional map, will see several competitive races in 2012. The Hawkeye State is losing a seat in Congress due to population decline, and two Members will square off in one of the new districts.
Incumbent: Bruce Braley (D)
3rd term (50 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic
Braley now boasts the safest Democratic seat in the state following redistricting. Under the new map, he lost the GOP-heavy Scott County and gained Democratic-leaning Linn County in the process.
Not only is his district more friendly, but Republicans in the Hawkeye State also admit he’s the most politically talented Democrat in the state, compared with his colleagues. They say Braley is the Iowa politician who would be most difficult to unseat in 2012 under the new map.
Braley staved off his 2010 opponent, Ben Lange, by 2 points. Iowa sources say the Republican is looking at challenging him a second time. But if Lange could not beat Braley in a GOP-dominant year such as 2010, it’s hard to believe he could topple the Democrat in 2012 — especially in this new, more favorable Democratic district.
Incumbent: Dave Loebsack (D)
3rd term (51 percent)
Rating: Likely Democratic
While Braley’s district improved following the new Congressional map, Loebsack’s district got a little worse.
Loebsack’s district swallowed up some of the GOP voters the 1st district shed, including Scott County, which is home to two of the Quad Cities — Bettendorf and Davenport.
Loebsack’s district is still one of the easier districts for Democrats in the state. He kept his stronghold of Johnson County, which includes the college town of Iowa City.
However, Republicans will try to capitalize on Loebsack’s new territory by fielding a candidate from either Bettendorf or Davenport. John Archer, an executive with John Deere from that area, has already indicated his interest in running.
While this might be a tougher race for Loebsack than in previous cycles, the Democratic Congressman still has the upper hand in his new district until a Republican candidate proves to be a tough competitor.
Member vs. Member: Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R)
Cycle after cycle, national Republicans have searched for a good candidate to challenge Boswell, whom they viewed as a weak campaigner but nonetheless strong enough to win re-election seven times in his marginally competitive district. But thanks to redistricting, the GOP has finally found an experienced, cash-flushed challenger: Latham.
As a result, Iowa insiders instantly declared the Latham versus Boswell match-up the most competitive 2012 race in the state.