Politics At Summer’s End

Rural Polling Place

The conventional wisdom about Iowa’s First Congressional District election is incumbent Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks has the advantage over Democrat Christina Bohannan. This was borne out by polling sponsored by the Bohannan campaign.

In a Change Research poll conducted June 30-July 4, the results confirmed Miller-Meeks enjoyed a one point advantage at 39-38 percent. This poll is getting stale, and with more than 20 percent of those polled not for either candidate, it is too early to make much of this one point lead. As summer ends with the last long weekend before the election, where do things stand?

Miller-Meeks first.

At her inaugural tailgate, where she announced her candidacy for re-election, Miller-Meeks assembled a typical cast of Republican characters.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas joined an array of familiar Iowa Republican faces at Streb Construction to support the freshman congresswoman as she announced her intent to seek a second term representing Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District in 2022. Besides Cotton, who has become a regular visitor to Iowa, U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, and Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann tried to fire up a crowd of about 200.

George Shillcock, Iowa City Press Citizen, Sept. 20, 2021.

As Miller-Meeks spent time in the 117th Congress, she got to know more Republicans there and began sounding like someone other than the person I met during her early campaigns and heard speak when she was Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. More than any politician I’ve known, the conversion to Washington, D.C. insider was fast and complete. She sounds less like someone legislating on behalf of Iowans and more like someone who took a crazy pill.

As her re-election campaign shifts into gear after the Labor Day weekend, one of her first campaign events will be another football tailgate in Iowa City, this time with U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who is the author of the Republican plan to rescue America. Scott wrote, among other things, these two sentences into his plan, “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” Miller-Meeks tapped into the mainline of radical right wing Republicanism.

If it wasn’t known already, at a Thursday, Aug. 18 event in Jasper County, Miller-Meeks made her complete alignment with the 45th president clear. She participated in a town hall meeting hosted by America First Agenda with panelists Linda McMahon, former Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Doug Hoelscher, former assistant to the 45th president, and Matthew Whitaker, former Acting U.S. Attorney General (same person who attended her first tailgate). America First Agenda is an organization that supports the 45th president and his chosen candidates. He even gave the first keynote address for the group. The Jasper County event was the first stop in a nationwide rollout of candidate support by the organization.

Miller-Meeks is a Trump Republican and undoubtedly adheres to the policy statement of America First Agenda. These are hardly Iowa values, yet the Republican seems convinced embracing them will lead to re-election.

Christina Bohannan is different. She is a Democrat. I want to make clear that I am not a campaign insider. The majority of what they ask of me is for financial donations, occasional event invitations, and even less frequently for canvassing help. I am not active in Bohannan’s campaign the way I was and am in other campaigns. I offer no exclusive insider information in this post.

Bohannan check-boxed the summer with appearances throughout the district at Democratic gatherings, parades, meet and greet events, fund raisers, visits to county fairs, a State Fair appearance flipping pork burgers, voter canvassing, and other typical campaign events. Bohannan acknowledges she is behind in fund raising (she recently had $1.27 million cash on hand to Miller-Meeks’ $2.66 million), yet believes they have enough money to meet campaign goals. This is all fine, and necessary.

The issue Bohannan faces is threading the needle of support for President Joe Biden’s policies with sufficient distancing from him to counter Republican attacks of being a “Biden Democrat.” While I like Biden Democrats, when I say it, it means something different from Republicans who speak in dog-whistle language. Republicans have been relentless in pursuit of this attack meme.

Here is a link to a WHBF interview with an example of how Bohannan responded to a direct question, “Will you run on Joe Biden’s record or run away from it? Where do you disagree with the administration when it comes to policy, if at all?” I like her answers. She refused to accept the interviewer’s framing despite his showing more persistence on the point than most journalists. Attempting to re-direct attention from Biden to Miller-Meeks is a solid response for Bohannan. It needs work because she comes across as dodging the question more than getting us to focus on her opponent. If she doesn’t address her clear support for Joe Biden more directly, the meme will stick.

Having a Trump minion in the Congress is not good for me or for Iowa. Because Republicans need to retain the seat to gain a majority in the U.S. House, they have and will invest big in Iowa’s First District. I believe Christina Bohannan is up to the challenge yet it will be a long, hard road to election day. Bohannan can use our help. Click here to learn how you can join the effort.

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