Dec 19, 2013
Latham’s Retirement Puts IA-03 In Play for Democrats
Congressman Tom Latham’s retirement in Iowa’s third Congressional District is the latest of example of a Republican who can’t defend his own party’s gridlock and agenda that hurts the middle class – whether it’s his party’s reckless and irresponsible government shutdown that put people out of work or their failure to pass a Farm Bill.
Congressman Latham’s retirement, combined with the ongoing Iowa GOP civil war, puts this Obama district firmly in play for Democrats.
Numbers Show Iowa’s Third Strong Is Pickup Opportunity
President Obama and Sen. Harkin won this district in 2008 and President Obama won the district in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and the Rothenberg Political Report have already moved the race to a “tossup.” The Des Moines Register headline called it “Iowa’s most competitive” House seat. The party registration of the district shows a pure tossup seat – as of Dec. 1 the district holds 33 percent active registered Democrats, 34 percent Republicans, and 33 percent no-party voters.
Iowa GOP Civil War Promises Dysfunctional Primary and Nomination Process
Roll Call named the Iowa GOP this year to its list of “most dysfunctional state parties” writing: “(Ron) Paul backers now make up a working majority of the state central committee and occupy the offices of chairman, co-chairman and finance chairman. Their ranks are in constant conflict with Gov. Terry E. Branstad, the state’s most established Republican, and many GOP state lawmakers… The local discord scares the national GOP.”
National Journal also picked up on the dynamic, noting that dysfunction in the Iowa GOP has reached “Mean Girls” levels of nastiness. “A nasty and personal civil war has broken out within the ranks of the Republican Party of Iowa, replete with charges of mismanagement, backroom conspiracies, and broken Facebook friendships. Already, two members of the party's central committee have called on the GOP chairman to resign.”
Dysfunction within the state party means that Republicans run a high risk of nominating the polar opposite of Congressman Latham – someone with an extreme Tea Party record, making it impossible to win a general election in a district won by President Obama.
Government Shutdown, Farm Bill Failure Leave Republican Brand Damaged
Besides dealing with a dysfunctional state party on the ground, it’s clear that local Republicans have to deal with a district is moving away from the deeply damaged national Republican Party. Earlier this year, the chair of the Polk County Republican Party – home to the largest population of voters – publicly abandoned the party for its dysfunction. Since then, things have only gotten worse for the party, with a government shutdown that put people out of work, paralysis on reforms to the broken immigration system and failure to pass a vital Farm Bill or minimum wage increase.
Even Congressman Latham knew that he couldn’t defend the Republicans’ government shutdown. Latham called the very idea of a shutdown “irresponsible.” And its impacts rippled across Iowa, taking $24 billion out of the nation’s economy and furloughing more than 1,000 Iowa National Guard Employees.
Earlier this year, Republican Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey said the House’s failure to pass a Farm Bill was “just one more complication in an already difficult year.” The Farm Bill is set to lapse again at the end of December, creating more uncertainty for Iowa’s farmers who depend on the bill for crop insurance.
Bottom line: Congressman Latham’s retirement puts this Obama district on the board for Democrats as the party’s reckless government shutdown and irresponsible failure to pass a Farm Bill will drag down local candidates and the civil war among Republicans will create a high risk of the party nominating a hard-right Tea Partier.
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