The 1st District Congressional race in Iowa will be a rematch between Congressman Bruce Braley and Republican challenger Ben Lange this fall. On Tuesday, Lange won the Republican primary over Dubuque businessman Rod Blum. Lange defeated Blum 53 percent to 47 percent.
Lange enters the 2012 general election in much better shape than he did two years ago when he was still relatively unknown and financial resources were scarce. Lange has already raised nearly $300,000 for his 2012 race, while at the same time in 2010 he only had raised $59,000. More importantly is that Lange was able to win the primary without spending most of the money he was able to raise.
In 2010, Braley defeated Lange by only 2 percent in one of the closest congressional contests in the nation. While Lange will get another shot at unseating Braley, the district has changed with redistricting. Voter registration statistics in the new 1st Congressional District are more favorable to Lange that the old district was. More importantly, if you do a county-by-county examination, Republican congressional candidates have outperformed Democratic candidates by nearly 5 points in competitive congressional elections during presidential cycles in the new District.
Redistricting also means that the congressional ground game in the 1st District will be more akin to an open-seat than a challenger race. This is especially the case in Linn County, an area that Braley has never represented before. In 2010, Lange showed the ability to run well in areas that Braley didn’t have strong connections to when he won Scott County, the largest county in the district.
Lange provides Iowa Republicans with a strong, aggressive candidate to run against Braley in the fall. While Lange benefitted by having both Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley on the ballot with him in 2010, this time Mitt Romney will be at the top of the ballot. Romney’s strength in Iowa is probably the strongest in the 1st District.
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