Alas, almost all of them are obsessed with the good folks of the Hawkeye State for all the wrong reasons. They care about which ambitious Republican has booked a speech at some county GOP shindig, or if the forthcoming Clinton grandchild is really going to be named Dubuque. Okay, I made that last one up. But, still, you get the point.
The political media's obsession with all things presidential has completely left unsung the fact that one could make a very compelling argument that no state in the Union is more worth watching this November than Iowa. Sure, it doesn't have one of the sexier Senate races like Mitch McConnell-Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky or Mark Pryor-Tom Cotton in Arkansas. And it doesn't have the universally villainous GOP governors on the chopping block like Rick Scott in Florida or (my personal favorite right-wing caricature) Paul LePage in Maine. And, perhaps, its U.S. House races might go under the radar because the pundit class has already projected a GOP majority six months in advance.
All that said, it can be argued that there are well over a dozen races that will merit attention come November in Iowa. From the top of the ballot all the way down to the state legislative level, Iowa matters. If nothing else, the races are incredibly interesting. Head below the fold to see why.
The two statewide elections are largely off the radar screen right now, largely because neither at present are considered tossups (currently, we here at Daily Kos Elections rate the gubernatorial race as likely Republican, while we have the open Senate race as leans Democratic).
But both contests have reasons why they could become steadily more intriguing as we move into the summer months. In the gubernatorial race, where veteran Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is seeking his sixth (non-consecutive) term in office, a wave of recent scandals have exacted a toll on his political fortunes. Perhaps the most damning evidence of that toll came this week, when a PPP poll conducted on behalf of Progress Iowa showed Branstad, once staked to a 20-plus point lead over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch, holding a lead of just 43-38 over the Democrat. Lest the unskewing crowd think this is all PPP lib'rul hype, it is worth noting that Suffolk University had Branstad leading by an only marginally more impressive 42-32 margin.
Ethical lapses are not exactly unprecedented for Branstad—even before the recent series of scandals, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named him among the "worst governors in America."
On the Senate side, the intrigue lies in the fact that the identity of the Republican nominee is up in the air. Our own polling database shows that no one has managed to break free from the pack. Sadly, it appears Sam Clovis, the dude that is by far the most entertaining cat in the field, is a bit too far gone to make the cut. But, hey, we can hope for a late surge.
If you need more of a reason to love Iowa 2014 beyond those potential sleeper statewide races, check this out: Iowa is one of just three states (Montana and New Hampshire are the others) to have every House seat in the state listed as competitive in our Daily Kos Elections House ratings. One of the four, the open seat to replace retiring GOP Rep. Tom Latham in IA-03, is listed as a true tossup. It is a seat where the Democrats have a serious candidate (Staci Appel) and the GOP has a half-dozen candidates vying for the nomination. If that side of the ledger gets bloody, or nominates the whackiest of the bunch, Democrats could start salivating.
The other three House battles are in varying shades of competitiveness. In IA-04, the territory is pretty damned red, but incumbent Rep. Steve King is ... well ... Steve King. King's opponent, Jim Mowrer, is an Iraq vet and has shown some pretty solid chops thus far, including thumping King on the fundraising front. Meanwhile, the open seat in IA-01 being vacated by Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley has a huge field vying for the gig on the blue side (and, thus far, a fairly underwhelming roster on the GOP side). Lastly, in IA-02, fourth-term Rep. Dave Loebsack will likely face a rematch against Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who held Loebsack to just 51 percent of the vote in 2010.
Iowa also boasts something that is becoming progressively more rare in the modern political climate: two competitive battles for control of the state legislature. Perhaps because of the nonpartisan nature of the state's redistricting process, both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate are within a handful of seats of flipping partisan control.
For the Democrats, they face a great challenge in retaining control of the state Senate, which is the sole barrier to complete GOP domination of the state government. They hold a 26-24 majority at present, but there are roughly a half dozen legitimately competitive races. Among the most interesting may well be in southern Iowa's SD-41, centered around Ottumwa. It is hard to find someone in-state as capable of eye-gouging commentary as Steve King, but incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Chelgren comes pretty close. The difference between Chelgren and King? Chelgren represents a district carried by President Obama (53-45).
On the other side of the capitol in Des Moines, the GOP that is looking to hang onto a modest majority. The Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the state House, but there are more than a dozen GOP-held seats that were carried by President Obama in 2012. That said, most of those districts were awfully close to 50/50, and therefore, control of the chamber could literally come down to a handful of votes.
Sure, there are individual races that have more political sex appeal. But, top to bottom, it is hard to think of another state that has virtually zero "yawn factor." Iowa is not always synonymous with excitement, but you would be awfully hard pressed to find a better state to follow on Election Night.