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Congressional Hopefuls Cozy Up to Iowa Caucus Circus

Mowrer, who's running for the Democratic nod in the 3rd District, says he has benefited from all the presidential activity in his backyard. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As presidential candidates storm their state ahead of next week's caucuses, Iowa's congressional candidates are struggling to be noticed. But behind the scenes, they're taking advantage of an energized electorate and organized political infrastructure to help build their own campaign operations.  

"Normally in January, 10 months until Election Day, people are not too politically involved. Having the presidential candidates investing time and money and fielding efforts in the state — that helps a lot to get people involved," said Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer, who's running for the Democratic nomination in Iowa's 3rd District.  Mowrer would know. Having run for Congress in 2014 in the 4th District, he's seen the difference between a midterm and presidential election cycle. "You can feel the difference between the level of engagement and the number of people involved," he said.  There are practical benefits, too. "It's a huge boost because you don’t have to spend resources to get on the ballot," said Travis Lowe, a Democratic consultant working for former state Rep. Pat Murphy in the 1st District and businessman Mike Sherzan in the 3rd District, both of whom are vying for the Democratic nods. "In  other cycles," Lowe said, "you have to knock on doors" to get the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. When there's a competitive presidential caucus, "it all happens on caucus night." The 1st and 3rd districts, both held by freshmen Republicans, are rated Tilts Democrat and Tossup , respectively, by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.  

Races Where Spending Bill Vote Could Be an Issue

Neither Republicans nor Democrats, whose Senate committee is led by Tester, see a clear political win from the omnibus vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress hadn't even left town when political campaigns in some of the most competitive House and Senate races zeroed in on Friday’s vote on a massive government spending bill. But rather than cleaving along partisan lines, Democrats and Republicans — incumbents and challengers alike — came down on both sides of the issue depending on their states and districts, suggesting national party committees aren't likely to take up the vote in their national messaging. The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, voted for the bill – even though some of his most vulnerable colleagues opposed it – while Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester of Montana opposed it, with similar divergences in his own party. In the case of this bill, every candidate is on their own.  

Pennsylvania Senate Sen. Patrick J. Toomey voted against the bill, criticizing it as an instrument of the government’s “out-of-control spending” that would exacerbate the deficit, fund the resettlement of Syrian refugees and implement “damaging” federal regulations. And yet, in a statement released after the vote, he went on to tout that the bill for which he did not vote includes bipartisan proposals that he said will support jobs in the Keystone State. He also praised the bill’s suspension of the medical device tax, support for the military, Alzheimer’s research and health care for 9/11 responders.   That’s a contradiction that former Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Toomey in 2016, seized on in Twitter messages Friday afternoon. https://twitter.com/JoeSestak/status/677930799744868354  

Incumbency Isn't Always an Advantage in Fundraising

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In Illinois, 8th District Rep. Tammy Duckworth has raised more than vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark S. Kirk and fellow Democrat Andrea Zopp. Duckworth hauled in $1.46 million to Kirk’s $1.05 million. She ended the period with $2.8 million on hand, compared to Kirk’s $3.62 million.

The biggest surprise came in Arkansas' safe Republican Senate seat. Less than a month after launching his campaign, wealthy former U.S. attorney Conner Eldridge  reportedly raised $403,000 to Sen. John Boozman’s $359,000. Boozman, however, still holds the cash advantage with $1.12 million in the bank. Because House candidates generally raise less money than their upper chamber peers, it’s less unusual for them to out-raise incumbents.  

Three Races in Which Export-Import Bank Could Be an Issue

Walberg opposes reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and his Democratic opponent is ready to make it an issue in Michigan's 7th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:20 a.m. |  In a handful of competitive races around the country, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its recruits intend to make an issue of the Export-Import Bank charter's lapse, especially now that large American corporations are blaming Congress for lost contracts and American jobs .  

The jobs General Electric will create overseas either already exist or would have been created in Maine, New York, Texas and South Carolina.  

Murphy to Announce He'll Seek Rematch With Blum (Updated)

A handful of Democrats are looking to take on Blum in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:20 p.m. |  Former state Rep. Pat Murphy, D-Iowa, will announce a bid for the Iowa House seat he lost in 2014, according to a source with knowledge of Murphy's plans.  

Murphy will face a crowded Democratic primary field looking to take on freshman Republican Rep. Rod Blum, one of the most vulnerable House GOP incumbents in the country.  

Blum Says Others Will Support Him If Republicans Don't

Blum is one of the most vulnerable House Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Iowa Republican Rep. Rod Blum's re-election effort is not getting much support from his party. But that's just fine with him.  

The freshman Republican alienated himself from some of his GOP colleagues after he cast his first vote in Congress against John A. Boehner's speakership — despite getting Boehner's support in his 2014 bid for Iowa's 1st District. And while Blum admits his vote has hurt his relationship with groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, he says there are other outlets he can turn to for support.  

EMILY's List Targets 15 Republicans for 2016

Schriock is the president of EMILY's List. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

EMILY's List put 15 GOP incumbents "On Notice" for their re-election bids Monday, naming its top GOP targets for 2016, according to a release provided first to CQ Roll Call.  

The group, which backs women who support abortion rights, says each incumbent has a bad record on women's health issues, and will make it a priority to find female recruits to challenge them next fall. The list is almost identical to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top targets in 2016, when the party will seek to put a dent in Republicans' historic House majority.  

Democrats Have Early Favorite House Pickup Opportunity

Blum, right, is a top Democratic target in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In one of the party's best pickup opportunities this cycle, Democrats have zeroed in on second-time candidate Monica Vernon to win Iowa's 1st District.  

Freshman Rep. Rod Blum, a Republican, holds the seat. But the district's composition is competitive, if not left-leaning: In 2012, President Barack Obama won it with 56 percent. That makes it a ripe target for Democrats, who must net 30 seats on a GOP-friendly map to win the majority. “It’s probably our toughest chance to hold onto something we have,” said Iowa Republican consultant Cory Crowley.  

DCCC Robocalls Target GOP on DHS Funding

Luján is chairman of the DCCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will launch robocalls against more than two dozen House Republicans Tuesday over the Department of Homeland Security funding flap , according to a script of the call provided first to CQ Roll Call.  

Many of the 29 targeted Republicans represent districts atop the DCCC's list of pick up opportunities in 2016. Democrats must net 30 seats to win control of the House.  

First Democrat Jumps Into Targeted Iowa Race

Democrats partially blame Braley for the loss. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:28 p.m. |  Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon announced her candidacy for Iowa's 1st District on Thursday, she announced Thursday, marking the first Democrat in a race that will top the party's target list in 2016.  

“Northeast Iowans deserve a representative in Congress with a track record of solving problems and getting results for families and small businesses across our community. That’s why I’m excited to announce my candidacy," Vernon said in a release.