Loebsack, Peters unsure of 'Trump effect' in Iowa's 2nd District
Voters may see a rematch of 2016 congressional race
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James Q. Lynch
IOWA CITY — Chris Peters is looking for another chance in the 2018 Iowa 2nd District congressional race.
Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is hoping for another term.
Peters, a Coralville surgeon, is hoping to get the opportunity to end Loebsack’s six-term run in the southeast Iowa district. Loebsack hasn’t formally announced he’s seeking re-election, but says, “I’m doing everything that indicates that I’m running.”
If he runs, “I hope it’s not a different outcome. If it’s different, I hope that it’s that I do even better than I did in 2016.”
Despite Donald Trump carrying the district that President Barack Obama won in 2012, Loebsack received 54 percent of the vote in defeating Peters in 2016.
Peters got a late start in that election, launching his campaign seven months before Election Day. Despite limited time and resources, he did “pretty well” to get 46 percent of the vote, he said.
Peters, 57, likes to point out that he carried 15 of the 24 counties in the 2nd District that stretches across southeast Iowa along the Mississippi River and the Iowa-Missouri border. The deciding factor was Johnson County where Loebsack more than doubled Peters’ vote — 50,448 to 23,310. If the Johnson County vote is eliminated, Loebsack carried the district by 500 votes — about 22 votes per county.
This time, Peters started his campaign 15 months before Election Day, has better name recognition and has more time to raise resources.
“This is just the beginning,” he said on his announcement tour around the district. “We have a long time to build an effective campaign.”
He might not have as much time as he would like. Although he’s the only Republican running, there’s speculation one or more others will get into the race for the GOP nomination.
In the meantime, Loebsack’s advantages are incumbency, the Johnson County vote reservoir and more than $1.364 million in his campaign war chest.
“The fact of the matter is, I didn’t put a lot of resources into the campaign last time because I felt pretty good about it,” Loebsack, 64, said. “I feel pretty good about the resources I have now. So we’re off to a great start on that front.”
What Loebsack, who taught political science at Cornell College before being elected to the House, doesn’t know is if there will be a “Trump effect” in 2018 and whether it will help him or his GOP challenger.
“(Trump) still has a pretty strong reservoir of support in Iowa and I think he does in my district, too,” Loebsack said. To him, that makes the 2nd a swing district despite nearly 26,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Trump’s win there “makes it even more of a swing district,” he said. “It has the potential to be very competitive. I have to assume the worst and hope for the best and go from there.”
The “Trump effect” may have come in 2016, Peters said, when voters were “awakened out of a traditional, vote-the-establishment-candidate way of thinking.”
“People on both sides are upset with the status quo, the establishment,” the Army veteran said. In 2008 and 2012, they were excited by Texas Rep. Ron Paul. In 2016, they were excited by Bernie Sanders and Trump.
“There’s a hunger that’s out there. They are looking for people who break the norms,” Peters said.
He’s encouraged by the number of counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but were carried by Trump in 2016. In 2012, Obama and Mitt Romney each won 12 counties in the 2nd District. In 2016, Trump won 22 — all but Johnson and Scott counties.
“So it looks like there is not a fixed ideology there. It seems like people are looking for change,” Peters said. “It will depend on each individual candidate. I don’t see a set algorithm to follow.”
For more on the candidates, go to loebsackforcongress.org and drpetersforiowa.com.
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