As presidential candidates storm their state ahead of next week's caucuses, Iowa's congressional candidates are struggling to be noticed. But behind the scenes, they're taking advantage of an energized electorate and organized political infrastructure to help build their own campaign operations.
"Normally in January, 10 months until Election Day, people are not too politically involved. Having the presidential candidates investing time and money and fielding efforts in the state — that helps a lot to get people involved," said Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer, who's running for the Democratic nomination in Iowa's 3rd District. Mowrer would know. Having run for Congress in 2014 in the 4th District, he's seen the difference between a midterm and presidential election cycle. "You can feel the difference between the level of engagement and the number of people involved," he said. There are practical benefits, too. "It's a huge boost because you don’t have to spend resources to get on the ballot," said Travis Lowe, a Democratic consultant working for former state Rep. Pat Murphy in the 1st District and businessman Mike Sherzan in the 3rd District, both of whom are vying for the Democratic nods. "In other cycles," Lowe said, "you have to knock on doors" to get the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. When there's a competitive presidential caucus, "it all happens on caucus night." The 1st and 3rd districts, both held by freshmen Republicans, are rated Tilts Democrat and Tossup , respectively, by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.