Middle America is a snapshot of the mixed political bag that is the United States. In an otherwise mostly lackluster performance, House Democrats picked up four key seats in Illinois that they had hoped to win after redistricting.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, such as the pair of member-versus-member races in Ohio and Iowa, Republicans came out on top. The disparate results throughout the region are a microcosm of how Jekyll-and-Hyde-like American voters can be. To wit: Rep. Michele Bachmann, a former presidential candidate, was long thought to have an easy reelection contest in Minnesota’s 6th District, but Democrat Jim Graves gave her a tough race that went down to the wire and still had not been called as of 4:30 Wednesday morning.
Illinois districts redrawn in Democrats’ favor looked less certain down the homestretchand it appeared that the party might have overreached, which makes Tuesday’s victories that more significant. In at least three of the districts—the 10th, 11th, and 17th—President Obama won by 60 percent of the vote or more in 2008. Obama’s easier-than-expected reelection may have provided momentum for targeted races in his home state.
Democrats gained the 8th, 11th, 12th and 17th districts in the Prairie State: Tammy Duckworth beat Rep. Joe Walsh; Bill Foster knocked of veteran Rep. Judy Biggert; Bill Enyart defeated Jason Plummer in the open 12th District; and Cheri Bustos beat freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling.
Shortly after these races were called, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Jennifer Crider tweeted: “House Democrats LOVE Illinois! IL08, IL11, IL12, IL17.”
Democrats also won Minnesota’s 8th District, where freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack was ousted by Democratic challenger Rick Nolan.
However, Republicans won the two hotly contested member-versus-member races in Iowa and Ohio. In Ohio’s newly redrawn 16th District, Rep. Jim Renacci beat Rep. Betty Sutton in a toss-up race. In Iowa’s newly drawn 3rd District, where reapportionment pitted two veteran members together as the Hawkeye State lost a seat, Rep. Tom Latham bested Rep. Leonard Boswell in a close contest.
Next door, Democrats also couldn’t beat five-term Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s new 4th District. Democrats had high hopes for challenger Christi Vilsack, wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, but she fell short. Republicans also won the open toss-up race for Illinois’ 13th District, with Rodney Davis besting David Gill.
Other GOP regional wins include a tight race for Ohio’s 6th District, where Rep. Bill Johnson fended off a challenge by former Rep. Charlie Wilson. And what was Senate Democrats’ gain—Rep. Joe Donnelly winning retiring GOP Sen. Richard Lugar’s seat—was House Democrats’ loss, as Jackie Walorski beat Brendan Mullen to claim the Hoosier’s 2nd District seat.
In addition to Bachmann’s closer-than-expected reelection bid, Michigan’s 1st District race between freshman Rep. Dan Benishek and Democrat Gary McDowell was also too close to call as of Wednesday morning. In a race that The Cook Political Report said was lean-Republican, Benishek had a scant 0.4 percent lead over McDowell as of 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.