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February 17th, 2012

Second Congressional District Primary Could Be a Good One

It’s easy to get distracted when presidential politics take over the political scene in Iowa every four years. With 24-hour cable news channels and unlimited campaign coverage via the Internet, one’s attention can easily become dominated by presidential politics even after the caucuses are long over. While caucuses allow us Iowans a chance to play in the big leagues for a while, they also take attention away from other important primaries that are quickly approaching.

In just over three months, or 109 days to be exact, voters will pick the Republican nominee in two eastern Iowa congressional districts. Both the 1st Congressional District and 2nd Congressional District races should be interesting, but with Ben Lange making a second attempt to take on Congressman Bruce Braley after coming within two percent of beating him in 2010, he’s the favorite in that nomination. That doesn’t mean we should overlook his primary opponent Rod Blum, it just means that the race has a clear favorite.

The Republican race in the 2nd Congressional District is wide open and two impressive candidates want to be the Republican nominee. Since the 2nd District has been reconfigured since the last election, all the conventional wisdom and trends from previous campaigns get thrown out of the window along with the old district lines.

Congressional campaigns are some of the most fun campaigns to work on and cover. That is especially true now that the sizes of the districts have increased. More counties and larger populations mean there are multiple routes candidates can take to winning the nomination.

Meet The Candidates:

John Archer is an attorney from Bettendorf. For the past 11 years, he has served as Senior Counsel at Deere & Company. Archer is also a part owner of The Schebler Company, an Iowa-based fabrication company.

Advantage: Archer has done a phenomenal job in traveling the district and getting to know activists. He is also building name ID in his home area by already having campaign signs on major thoroughfares in the Quad Cities.

Disadvantage: For as good as Archer has been in getting to know Republican voters in the district for almost a year now, he doesn’t appear to have the fundraising prowess one expects from a top notch candidate. Archer only raised $34,908 in the last three months of 2011. There is still time to raise money for his campaign, but to be successful, he will need substantial resources.

Dan Dolan is a homebuilder from Muscatine. Dan Dolan Homes has developments in Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott Counties. He specializes in smaller, energy efficient, assessable, service provided homes for people at or near retirement.

Advantage: Dolan’s small business background and business dealings in three of the top ten primary turnout counties gives him a larger footprint when it comes his home territory. Dolan has also shown that he has the ability to put a substantial amount of money into his campaign. Dolan loaned his campaign $75,000 in the last reporting period.

Disadvantage: Like Archer, Dolan has yet to show much when it comes to fundraising. He also has not been as aggressive in getting to know activists across the district as his opponent has been. Like Archer, Dolan possesses an impressive resume, but he is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to being a congressional candidate. That’s not all bad, but needs to become comfortable being in the spotlight.

The District:

The new 2nd District contains 24 counties, which stretch from the Mississippi River in the east to Interstate 35 in the west. Making campaigning even more difficult is that the district is comprised of five different media markets. Since both Archer and Dolan are from the eastern part of the district, the battleground could be the western part of the district that includes Mahaska, Marion, and Jasper counties.

The conventional wisdom is that the candidates will need to perform well in Scott and Johnson County. Those two counties make up 28 percent of the primary vote, but that is nothing compared to how Linn and Johnson Counties dominated the old 2nd District. Those two counties made up 46 percent of the primary vote in the old district.

There is no doubt that Scott and Johnson Counties will be prime ground on which the primary campaign will be waged, but the new district allows campaigns to carve out many different routes to a nomination win that the old 1st and 2nd Districts never really allowed.

When you break the district down into media markets, the counties in the Quad Cities market represent the largest percentage of the primary vote with 38 percent. Counties in the Des Moines market total 28 percent, the Cedar Rapids market 19 percent, and the Ottumwa market covers 12 percent of the primary vote. The Quincy, Illinois, market only covers Lee County, which is only 3 percent of the primary vote.

Obviously Archer and Dolan will campaign aggressively in their home area, which is contained in the Quad Cities TV market. It’s probably good that they are both from the same area since TV rates in that market are some of the highest in the state. What will be interesting to see whether either of them will be able to run broadcast TV ads in the other parts of the district.


The primary is wide open. There is also a third candidate, Richards Gates, in the race, but it doesn’t look like he will be much of a factor. If the race turns out to be an organization battle, it would seem to give Archer the advantage. If the candidates pick up their fundraising pace or Dolan self-funds his campaign, the race may be decided on who uses those resources to articulate the best message and who deploys those resources in the right areas.

The 2nd Congressional District primary is going to be the one you will want to watch.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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