CARROLL - As he campaigns in western Iowa, Fifth District Congressional candidate Rob Hubler says its becoming clear to him the economy is surpassing the war in Iraq and the standard-fare menu of social issues as the chief concern for voters.
Hubler, a Council Bluffs Democrat, is challenging three-term GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King of Kiron.
In past elections, socially conservative middle-class voters have been to in essence go against their pocketbook and line up with corporate Republicans made politically expedient appeals on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues.
This time, with rising gas prices and a generally tough economic picture, voters may not have the luxury of looking past basic needs at the polls.
"I believe that is a dynamic," Hubler told Iowa Independent in an interview in Carroll. "They're making a choice that the economy is a primary issue for them."
Hubler sets forth the top three issues in the sprawling 32-county district as follows:
1. The economy
2. Iraq war
3. Health care
Hubler said the economy is almost 2-to-1 over Iraq with voters, and that in southwest Iowa the economy comes up to the near exclusion of Iraq.
"It's kind of regionalized," he said.
Hubler believes economic anxieties reveal the concerns western Iowans have with a Congressman who doesn't deliver federal money for his district.
Figures from the Citizens Against Government Waste Congressional (CAGW) "Pork Book" show that King is by far the weakest bread winner of Iowa's congressional delegation. King brought home just $9.8 million in 2008 in what the group calls "pork-barrel" spending.
While ostensibly a measure of what this conservative organization deems "waste" or "pork" spending, the report can't help but reveal the effectiveness of legislators in working the system to get money for their constituents. Toward that end, U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are runaway leaders for the Hawkeye State, bringing back $321.4 million and $302.8 million, respectively, in what the CAGW calls pork-barrel spending. Western Iowa's former congressman, Tom Latham, now over in the 4th District, delivered seven times as much as King -- $67 million. Since Latham, too, is a Republican, King can't counter that this is about partisan politics in a Democratically controlled Congress.
That said, two first-term Democrats in Iowa, U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, brought back $27.5 million and $53.5 million, respectively, in 2008, CAGW reports. That's far more than third-termer King who has a GOP powerhouse, Grassley, with whom to team up for the interests of western Iowa's many small towns that are in dire need of economic-development assistance.
"Show me the money," Hubler says. "(King) does not perform as a congressman, period. He does not know what the definition of a representative is."