Few people thought there would be a competitive race in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional district, including myself–and I grew up there!
The local Congressman, Jim Leach, was an old-school liberal Republican who’d been in Congress since 1976 and opposed the war in Iraq. If anyone could withstand a Democratic wave, it would be Leach. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) took a poll a week before the election and found Leach comfortably ahead.
But his challenger, Dave Loebsack, an antiwar international relations professor at Cornell College in Cedar Rapids, blanketed Eastern Iowa with signs reading “Had Enough?” When the results came in, Loebsack won by 6,000 votes. Hawkeye Democrats also picked up an additional Congressional seats in the 1st District, both state Houses and the Governor’s mansion.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, former Republican pharmaceutical exec Nancy Boyda knocked off GOP Rep. Jim Ryun in another shocker in Kansas. Nobody believed Ryun was in trouble until the DCCC launched an ad against him a week before the election. The surprise attack worked, with Boyda winning by 4 percent.
Other upsets came in states like New Hampshire, where two antiwar Democrats knocked off Republican incumbents, in Kentucky, where liberal newspaper publisher John Yarmurth bested Anne Northup and in Pennsylvania, where rising Republican star Melissa Hart lost by ten thousand votes to 38-year-old healthcare exec Jason Altmire in Pittsburgh.
President Bush got one thing right about the elections. The “prognosticators” aren’t always right.