Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) could have a major impact on the presidential race. (AP)

The race here pits Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) against former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, who moved from her native southeast Iowa into the district to challenge the five-term lawmaker in what promises to be the most significant fight of his political career so far.

Voters here face a distinct choice: They can go with an experienced political operative though first-time candidate who vows to focus on local issues of concern and shun the national spotlight. Or they can stick with a veteran lawmaker who says he can balance his time on national television and radio programs with his commitment to his home district.

As the Sioux City Journal noted Sunday, King has never lost a political race since mounting his first campaign for state senator in 1996. He raised $848,035 during the most recent fundraising quarter, the single-largest haul of any Iowa congressional candidate ever. The money left him with about $1.2 million to spend against Vilsack, who raised roughly $520,000 in the second quarter and had $846,205 in the bank at the end of June.

Christie Vilsack is running against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

But Republicans say that Vilsack isn’t offering Iowans a compelling reason to drop King in favor of her. She rarely speaks publicly on her policy positions, they say, and instead refers voters to her campaign Web site. Some have labeled her an opportunist for moving across the state to challenge King instead of running in southeast Iowa. And King has made an issue of Vilsack’s husband, Tom Vilsack, the former governor and current agriculture secretary, who is scheduled to campaign in Des Moines Tuesday on behalf of President Obama.

There is no reliable polling on the state of the race, but outside groups plan to pour millions of dollars into the contest in hopes of swaying voters.

Learn more about that — and read what King and Vilsack have to say about each other and their campaigns — throughout the day as the 5in5 project continues from Iowa, at

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