Top Races to Watch in 2016: The Plains Region
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Plains Region includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Iowa’s 1st District: GOP Rep. Rod Blum is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, considering President Barack Obama won the district with 56 percent in 2012 and 59 percent in 2008. Democrats are headed for a competitive primary between 2014 nominee/former state Rep. Pat Murphy, Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Gary Kroeger. Blum is already sideways with the National Republican Congressional Committee . The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating is Pure Tossup .
Iowa’s 3rd District: Democrats are also targeting freshman Rep. David Young, but the Republican congressman’s district isn’t as favorable for a challenge as Blum’s seat. Obama won the 3rd with 51 percent in 2012 and 52 percent in 2008. The Democratic field is still taking shape but it should be a top takeover target in a presidential year. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating is Pure Tossup.
Nebraska’s 2nd District: Democrat Brad Ashford knocked off GOP Rep. Lee Terry in 2014, even though it was a terrible year for Democratic candidates. That says more about Terry’s ineptness than Ashford’s strength. Republicans don’t have a lot of takeover opportunities, but this Omaha-based district is one of them. Mitt Romney carried the 2nd with 53 percent in 2012 after Obama won it by a point in 2008. Retired Brig. Gen. Don “Bits” Bacon and former state Sen. Chip Maxwell are running on the Republican side but they are unlikely to have the field to themselves. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating is Pure Tossup .
Missouri Senate: Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander didn’t waste a lot of time announcing his challenge to GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. Democrats are excited about Kander’s candidacy, but the office of secretary of State has been a terrible launching pad for Senate candidates in recent elections. The last sitting secretary of State elected to the Senate was Democrat Max Cleland in Georgia in 1996. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating is Safe Republican , but the race could get more competitive.
Iowa’s 4th District: Democrats love to challenge polarizing GOP Rep. Steve King. But Romney won the 4th by 8 points in 2012 and Democrats haven’t been able to crack the code. In 2014, King defeated Democrat Jim Mowrer by a considerable 62 percent to 38 percent margin. Now Mowrer is being mentioned as a potential candidate in the 3rd District. But as long as King keeps talking, there is always a chance this race becomes competitive. For now, the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating is Safe Republican .
What race would you add to the list?
Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016
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