When the presidential campaigns bombarded Iowa over the summer, there was an unintended consequence: Every House race in the state became more competitive.
Consequently, a state once expected to feature one or two competitive House races could see all four seats in play.
This newfound dynamic slightly favors Republicans, who face tough climbs to unseat Democratic incumbents in two eastern Iowa seats. But Democrats also reap the benefits of a more competitive field that is energizing their candidates in the western half of the state, including Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in his marquee battle with Rep. Tom Latham (R).
The proof is on the airwaves: By Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee will be on the air in each of the state's four districts. House Democrats have reserved time in three districts.
"We always believed that Republicans could be competitive in all four Congressional races following redistricting last year," said Tim Albrecht, a veteran Republican operative who serves as communications director for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R). "Now, as we get closer to the election, you might have thought two would have dropped off. All four of our Congressional races are going strong."
Republicans are bullish about the 2nd district in southeastern Iowa, where Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) faces a challenge from John Archer (R), a former John Deere attorney. Republicans have reserved $750,000 in airtime to boost Archer, about $165,000 more than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has allocated to the district.
It is a Democratic district, but even Loebsack's supporters acknowledge the former college professor is not a strong campaigner. He held a massive cash advantage at the end of June, but that lead could be quickly erased if an outside group decides to target the race.
Loebsack's greatest challenge is the Quad Cities media market, which is mostly new to him under the redraw. A battleground for the presidential candidates, this market has become one of the most expensive in the state, costing as much per point as cities such as St. Louis. Accordingly, Roll Call is changing its race rating from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic.
Republicans also view the 1st district as competitive - but to a lesser degree than the 2nd. In this northeastern district, Rep. Bruce Braley (D) faces his 2010 opponent, attorney Ben Lange (R).
Still, Republicans are confident enough to reserve $350,000 in airtime for this district. The current spending is a trial balloon to see if the race can become more competitive. Democrats have yet to reserve anything, but Braley - a good fundraiser - has a strong cash lead.