Dave Loebsack, the Democratic U.S. representative in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, doesn’t see many similarities between Tuesday’s election results and the blue wave he rode into Congress 12 years ago.
In 2006, the former college professor defeated longtime Republican Rep. Jim Leach. Democrats picked up 21 seats in the U.S. House that year and made Rep. Nancy Pelosi the first female speaker of the House.
This week, with some races yet to be settled, Democrats have gained 30 seats to once again, perhaps, make Pelosi speaker.
However, Loebsack, who cruised to a 55 percent to 43 percent victory Tuesday to win a seventh term, thinks the similarity ends there.
“The world has changed dramatically since that,” Loebsack said Thursday. “In 2006, it was largely a reaction to the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and some of the attempted overreaches on Social Security privatization and issues like that.”
This year, the Democratic surge came largely from suburban voters because they are unhappy with President Donald Trump, Loebsack said.
“We didn’t have anything like that in 2006. It was a simpler time,” he said.
That may signal a continuation of the realignment seen in 2016, with rural areas becoming more conservative and the suburban and urban areas becoming more Democratic-friendly, Loebsack said.
“That’s why Iowa is such an interesting case,” he said. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts “are such examples of diversity. Swing districts. They’ll always be a challenge for anyone in office, Democrat or Republican.”
Loebsack, who taught political science, doubts party leadership — Democrat and Republican — in Washington understands those districts and how they are changing.
“Most people in Washington or on either coast don’t get what’s going on in the middle of the country, especially in Iowa and districts like ours, “ he said. “They don’t understand they can be as diverse as they are and don’t fit neatly into any category.”
Loebsack, who has been the lone Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation since Sen. Tom Harkin retired in 2015, welcomed the election of state Rep. Abby Finkenauer in the 1st District and Cindy Axne in the 3rd.
He expects they will have an immediate impact entering the House as part of a “majority maker” class.
“They’re going to have an automatic impact and be very much appreciated for bringing the majority to the Democrats,” Loebsack said. “In that sense, they will have an enhanced presence that under other circumstances they might not.”
One of the first tasks for Loebsack, Axne and Finkenauer will be to elect a House speaker. None of them have publicly committed to supporting Pelosi.
Loebsack doesn’t expect the Democratic caucus to choose a leader until after Thanksgiving.
“There are a number of people who are jockeying for one position or another,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of emails, a lot text messages, a lot of phone calls the past few days.
“But at the moment, I don’t see anyone in the Democratic Party yet who will challenge Pelosi.”