Jim Mowrer gave me a call last week. As you know, and as he knew, I was initially quite dismissive of his chances when he announced his candidacy against Steve King. But I'm willing to talk to just about anyone (though Pat Murphy still hasn't called).
And I'm even willing to reconsider sometimes.
Jim Mowrer's a serious guy. He had a serious enough military career, in war and in the Pentagon, that he didn't need to come home to run a hapless race. And he's looked at the numbers, daunting as they are in that red district, close enough to see a path to victory.
That path runs through his fellow veterans and through the independents and even Republicans who are tired of having a congressman who's all talk and no action.
(Speaking of which, King did some more talking this weekend on, of all places, Univision, where he came as close as ever to admitting that No Amnesty = Mass Deportation. “American citizens and legal Americans do not have a moral obligation to
solve the problem of the 11 million people that are here unlawfully." See? Even on his signature issue, he is fighting to do nothing.)
Where I was wrrrrr was in my assumption that Democrats had made their strongest possible effort in 2012. And Christie Vilsack was, indeed, King's strongest challenger yet.
But strongest YET is different than strongest POSSIBLE. Vilsack ran a decent campaign, but it was a conventional campaign and in many ways she was a conventional candidate.
Steve King is an unconventional politician, and it's hard to attack an unconventional target with conventional weapons. So... why not something different? You know I'm all about the young candidates.
Insert megabytes of arguments here about where Christie Vilsack should have run (but remember that Boswell lost). And several high-level Iowa politicos have successfully moved, as long as there was some plausible overlap of territory. But even Vilsack's biggest supporters will concede that her ties to the 4th District really just her ties to the state as a whole rather than anything specifically northwest.
Mowrer is genuinely rooted in the district, on a family farm in Boone. His military veteran background (and, sadly, his gender) can reach voters Vilsack couldn't.
Sure it's a tough fight. But King is about to take center stage in a way he hasn't before. If he fails to kill immigration reform, it's a sign of a shifting mood even among Republicans. And if he succeeds, it just underscores that he's all about nothing getting done.
And in a seeming paradox, the off-year may actually help Democrats;
unlike the rest of the state the district is so red that the big
presidential year turnout helps the GOP more. And Democrats? In Steve King's district, Democrats will be ready to vote.