Republicans in the 2nd Congressional District face an easy choice. Although there are five candidates in the race, it is clear that the nominee will be either Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was elected a state senator in 2018, or Bobby Schilling, who served as the U.S. Representative from the 17th District of Illinois (including Moline and Rock Island) for one term (2011-2013), and moved to LeClaire, Iowa, in 2017. The eventual nominee will face Rita Hart, the former state senator who was chosen by Fred Hubbell to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2018.
Since incumbent Dave Loebsack is not running for reelection, and incumbents are hard to dislodge, Republicans start off in a better position in this district than at any time since 2006, when Loebsack was first elected. Republicans will prove that they really are the stupid party if they give Miller-Meeks a fourth chance to lose the district for us in 2020. Yes, she is a three-time loser, having lost to Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014. She can be given a pass for losing badly (with just 38.77%) in 2008, since that was a very bad Republican year. But she also came up short in very good Republican years, in 2010 (with 45.92%), when Republicans retook the House, and in 2014 (with 47.35%), when Republicans retook the Senate and Governor Branstad and Senator Ernst were winning huge victories.
When voters at some point were rejecting policies favored by Republicans, Lee Atwater observed: “The dogs don’t like the dog food.”
There is no reason to think that Miller-Meeks would appeal better to voters in 2020, warmed over, than she did in the past, when fresher. The district was given a “D +1” rating (meaning Democrats had a 1-point advantage) by the Cook Partisan Voter Index in 2018. That means the Republican nominee has to hold all Republicans and do slightly better among independents to win. It seems very doubtful that Miller-Meeks would even be able to unite the base, since she never retracted very critical remarks she made equating then-candidate Trump with Hillary Clinton in 2016, and since pro-life elements will be suspicious of statements she has made in the past.
Schilling has shown fighting spirit. He is not afraid to point out the duplicity of Miller-Meeks (his tweets mentioning her have the hashtag #NoMorePretenders), is pushing back on Big Tech censorship of conservatives, and is not afraid to oppose the Left on issues like classifying Antifa as a terrorist organization, keeping transgenders out of girls’ sports, and the scheme to replace in-person voting with mail-in ballots. He was endorsed in late May by Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union.
Finally, a Republican with a pulse! Too many of the Republicans sent to Congress are not really interested in shaking up the place. As an insurgent candidate, Schilling can go to Washington and represent the people, since he will have triumphed over the Establishment of the GOP as well as the Democrats, just like Trump did.
Miller-Meeks, by contrast, would be beholden to the Establishment and under their thumb. Remember how little the Republican House accomplished under Paul Ryan, despite Republican control of the Senate and White House? If you want a repeat of that, quadruple-down on Miller-Meeks; with a RINO like her, even if you win, you lose. Then the sensible thing to do is to support Schilling; with him, at least, if you win, you win.