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Loebsack’s Rematch Is No Longer a Cakewalk

Tricia Miller/Roll Call
Sophomore Rep. Dave Loebsack speaks to employees at Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Correction Appended

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — In any normal election cycle, this wouldn’t seem like much of a race.

Second-term Rep. Dave Loebsack has accomplishments to tout, is thanked by the locals in Iowa’s 2nd district for helping with a major flood and is in a rematch with the same political newcomer he bested by 18 points two years ago.

But this is no normal election cycle, and if some of the district’s voters who embraced Democrats in 2008 are any indication, Loebsack could be in trouble.

For Democrats, races like Loebsack’s, which they never thought they’d have to worry about, are trending against them. CQ Politics recently moved the 2nd district from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. This district is among those that will determine whether Nov. 2 is a decent night or a great night for Republicans.

Consider a recent campaign swing through the southeastern Iowa district.

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, as many of his colleagues were in the fight of their political lives, Loebsack convened a Main Street roundtable in Iowa Hall at Kirkwood Community College. Fewer than 15 people were in the room, including reporters and staff, and Loebsack used the meeting to emphasize his role as an advocate for the southeastern Iowa district in the nation’s capital. Participating in the roundtable were representatives from a nearby Chamber of Commerce, a local small-business group, a local grain elevator, and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Rebecca Neades, an Iowa City Chamber of Commerce official, thanked Loebsack profusely for his help after the Cedar River flooded in the summer of 2008, in which the area was ravaged.

“We’ve been very successful at coming back, and a lot of that was due to how quickly you acted in Congress and the calls you took from us and the problems you would help work out, and you visited and are still visiting many of the businesses that were impacted,” she said, an introduction that offered a preview of similar remarks made by others.

For his part, Loebsack was at home at the community college. With his glasses and beard, the 57-year-old retains his calm, soft-spoken demeanor. He taught political science at nearby Cornell College for 24 years before winning his first elected office when he upset longtime Rep. Jim Leach (R) in 2006. Constituents refer to him as Dave, and his staff stresses that he knows the district’s 15 counties backward and forward.

Loebsack is in a rematch with ophthalmologist and Army veteran Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican he defeated by 18 points in 2008.

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