DES MOINES — Somebody will win here, somebody will be defeated — and Iowa will lose a longtime lawmaker.
Those are the stakes facing Rep. Tom Latham (R) and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D), who are fighting to represent Iowa’s new 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Des Moines west to Council Bluffs. It is the most evenly divided district in the state, with the fewest registered independent voters and Republicans maintaining a roughly 6,000-voter advantage over Democrats.
In 2008, Barack Obama won the area surrounding Des Moines, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the more conservative western reaches of the district.
Boswell is technically the incumbent in the new 3rd, because Latham represented the state’s old 4th District, which stretched from Des Moines north to the Minnesota border.
I first visited the district in early April and wrote that Boswell always finds himself in close reelection fights. For 10 years, he remained the only Iowa Democrat in the House.
In an interview in April, Boswell repeated a line that he has used often to describe the daunting challenge he faces: “There’s no way I’m going to match the three people I’m running against.” He was referring to Latham, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) — a close friend of Latham’s who campaigned here for him last week — and Karl Rove, whose Crossroads America super PAC has purchased millions of dollars in television advertising time in hopes of defeating Boswell.
During the same trip, I asked Latham about how Democrats appeared ready to attack him for “ending Medicare as we know it” because he voted for the House Republican budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) that proposed significantly changing the program.
Latham responded by making a notably profound statement that perhaps foreshadowed presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to tap Ryan as his running mate: “People get it today. They know that stuff is not sustainable. They know that if nothing is done that it’s going to go bankrupt,” Latham said. “I think that person who actually proposes things, who will save Medicare, will be in a lot stronger position than someone who demagogues the issue.”
Does Latham still feel that way? I plan to ask him today.