DES MOINES — If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a good summer road trip. If there’s another thing I enjoy, it’s covering politics.
So what happens when you combine those two passions with direct orders from my coterie of editors? A five-day road trip across the Midwest to visit at least five congressional districts.
Because lawmakers won’t be returning to Washington until early September, and with the contours of the presidential contest coming into focus, this is the perfect week to see incumbents and their challengers in action.
The goal of my trip is simple: I will visit a mix of swing, competitive and safe congressional districts over the next five days, meet and see as many candidates as possible and — perhaps most important — speak with the voters who will elect them. If the trip is a success, I plan to repeat it later in the campaign season in another part of the country with a new batch of districts.
What I hope will make this trip most fun is hearing from you: Along the way, which landmarks or restaurants should I visit or avoid? What do you want me to ask the congressional candidates? What questions do you have about the race to control the House and the Senate? There are several ways to share your thoughts — regular blog updates that will appear here at 2chambers; in our rolling live blog (when it launches Monday at washingtonpost.com/5in5) when I’m traveling around; and through the regular updates I post on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds.
So where am I going? Here’s my tentative itinerary:
Monday: What luck we have: After planning this trip for weeks, it happens to begin in what today serves as the center of the U.S. political universe: Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. The district encompasses Iowa’s southwestern corner, stretching from Des Moines out west to Council Bluffs and down south to the Missouri border. Today, President Obama plans to visit Council Bluffs and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee, plans to stop by the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines this afternoon. The congressional race pits Rep. Tom Latham (R) against Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in one of a handful of incumbent-vs.incumbent matchups this year.
Tuesday: I’ll visit Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, which covers northwestern and north-central parts of the state. It’s one of the most closely watched races of the year, between former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack (D) and conservative firebrand Rep. Steve King (R).
Wednesday: From Iowa, I’ll drive East to central Illinois, and the Land of Lincoln’s 16th Congressional District. This is a safe Republican area, but we’re eager to take the temperature of one of the reddest parts of Obama’s home state. Plus, it’s also the home of Dixon, Ill., the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, a place I’ve always wanted to visit.
Thursday: I will head to the Chicago suburbs, where several close races are worth checking out. I’ll start with the Illinois 8th Congressional District, where Iraq war veteran and former Veterans Affairs official Tammy Duckworth (D) is trying to unseat Rep. Joe Walsh (R). This has been a nasty race, and I expect to see both of them in action.
Friday: If all goes as planned, the week will end in the Illinois 11th Congressional District, where Rep. Judy Biggert (R) faces former congressman Bill Foster (D).