Students hype underdog congressional candidates


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Chinese across the globe rang in the Year of the Tiger earlier this week. But for politicos on campus, 2010 looks more like the year of the underdog.

Still 81⁄2 months from the general election, some UI students are gearing up to support candidates in November’s congressional races. Both Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are up for re-election.

While the opposing parties have fielded competitors in both races, most analysts aren’t chalking up much of a chance for the challengers.

According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, both Grassley and Loebsack have a “solid” chance of being re-elected. In fact, Grassley — who was seated in the Senate at the same time Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency — would likely beat any of the Democratic hopefuls by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a recent Rassmussen poll.

Those odds don’t stop two Democrats who spoke on campus Tuesday.

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Both Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen stressed the importance of generating interest among young people with the UIDemocrats.

“Any one of you people in this room can do the same,” Krause said after rattling off the accomplishments of his youth, including winning a spot in the Iowa Legislature at age 22. “You can go out and change the world. All you need is focus, focus, and focus.”

He also noted that he was a member of the UI Democrats in the early 1970s.

The candidates were both optimistic about bringing down Grassley, a 30-year veteran of the Senate. Even Fiegen, admittedly the underdog in a field of underdogs, said he’s in a good spot.

“I would rather surprise people than be the favorite,” he said.

Krause, Fiegen, and another Democrat, Roxanne Conlin, will compete in a June primary to decide who will run against Grassley.

Campus Republicans are in the game, too; UI freshman Will Gries is leading a campus effort to lend support to Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican on the prowl for Loebsack’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Miller-Meeks will face off against Republicans Steve Rathje and Christopher Reed in June’s primary.

Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District is deep blue — 7 percent more Democratic than the national average, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. In 2008, Loebsack handily defeated Miller-Meeks, grabbing almost 60 percent of the vote.

But Gries isn’t fazed. He said the area isn’t as liberal as some of the numbers indicate.

“Just from talking to people here, I get the sense that most people at their core are very moderate and will give anybody a chance to say their viewpoints and tell how they can help,” said Gries, a self-described moderate Republican.

A bigger challenge, Gries said, is dealing with apathetic students. The remedy? Explaining the importance of the election.

“I think students have the same things at stake in 2010 as they did in 2008,” Gries said. “Because we are the future of this country, we should have an interest in how things go.”

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