Iowa Not in Top 10

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Left Out: Iowans (o.k., some of them) are excited about some of the races coming up in November. Of course, maybe it’s easier to get excited about a November race when the heat index isn’t 115 degrees! But NBC’s First Read doesn’t seem to be hot about Iowa’s slate of contests.

Governor Chet Culver isn’t doing well in polls (and hasn’t been for some time) and has been the target of some national stories talking about how vulnerable he is. Plus, there’s the whole…one governor (the son of a U.S. senator) vs. a former 4-term governor. In the news biz, that makes for a pretty sexy race. The 3rd District Congressional race between Democratic Incumbent Leonard Boswell and Republican challenger Brad Zaun is also getting some attention (the Dems are bringing in former President Bill Clinton later this month). But I’m not seeing a lot of national press about many other races in the state. Is that why Iowa can’t crack the top 10 in NBC’s top 10 states to watch?

** First Read’s Top 10 states to watch: If it’s Friday, it means another First Read Top 10 list. This time, we look at the Top 10 states to watch in 2010 — based on the number of good races, and also what they might tell us about the overall political environment and the emerging 2012 race. The number in parentheses is our last ranking from February.

1. Florida (3): This swing state probably best tells the story of 2010. It has competitive Senate, House and gubernatorial races; it now features two competitive statewide primaries (McCollum vs. Scott, and Meek vs. Greene); it tests the strength and perhaps weakness of the Tea Party (will Rubio win?); and it will measure the appeal of an independent candidate (Crist).
2. Colorado (2): This state has it all, too — presidential swing state, competitive Dem Senate primary (Bennet vs. Romanoff), and an establishment vs. anti-establishment GOP Senate primary (Norton vs. Buck). And now there’s a plagiarism scandal that is throwing the gubernatorial race into chaos.
3. Ohio (1): Having Ohio third on this list tells you how many great state-based stories there are this midterm cycle. As in Florida and Colorado, the Buckeye State features competitive Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. And, of course, it’s probably the nation’s premiere presidential battleground state.
4. Nevada (5): The contests in this western swing state will tell us: 1) Will Harry Reid go the way of Tom Daschle? 2) Can Sharron Angle win in a state that Obama won by more than 12 percentage points? 3) Can two Reids (Harry and Rory) co-exist on the Dem ballot? and 4) Will the GOP get a Latino governor in Brian Sandoval?
5. California (10): In presidential contests, California is often an afterthought. But that’s not the case in midterms, and the state this year features a competitive gubernatorial race (Brown vs. Whitman), a competitive Senate contest (Boxer vs. Fiorina), and money — lots of it.
6. Pennsylvania (8): Here’s another state with a key Senate contest (Sestak vs. Toomey), a gubernatorial race (Corbett vs. Onorato), and a few competitive House match-ups. What’s more, President Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted in this state that he won by 10 percentage points. According to Quinnipiac, his approval rating is now upside down at 46%-49%.
7. Illinois (4): President Obama’s old Senate seat is up for grabs (Giannoulias vs. Kirk), and the governor’s race is a hot one (Quinn vs. Brady). And they’re taking place smack in the middle of the Blago trial.
8. Indiana (unranked): A state Obama won in 2008 looks like it’s trending back toward Republicans. But keep an eye on the race to replace Evan Bayh, which could be a sleeper for Democrats (or a pick up for Republicans). Plus, people often ask: How’s it playing in Peoria? Come 2012, they’ll be asking: How’s it playing in Elkhart?
9. Arizona (unranked): Illegal immigration — and the battle against it — has turned this state into a political hotbed. And the passage of Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law transformed Gov. Jan Brewer into a conservative celebrity and a possible shoo-in for victory in November. Oh, and don’t forget that one of the Republicans who led the charge for comprehensive immigration reform — John McCain — is up for re-election and running to the right in his GOP primary battle against J.D. Hayworth.
10. New Mexico (unranked): GOP strength in the West, as we’ve pointed out, could come because of women. And in this swing state where Hispanics outnumber any other ethnic group (44% to 42% of whites), Republicans hope gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez will beat out Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) in the race to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Richardson (D). There’s also a highly competitive House race in which former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is hoping to get his old seat back from freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D).

Top 5: Here are my top 5 St. Louis Cardinals to watch in the second half:
1. Tony LaRussa–the Cards have been sloppy–too many errors, bad base running, too many swings at bad pitches–not something LaRussa teams usually do. Can he get them to play good ol’ Cardinal baseball?
2. Ryan Ludwick–he’s an underappreciated stud on the team. He’s one of the most productive right-fielders in baseball the past 2 years. He needs to get over this calf injury and produce. Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Ludwich make for a fearsome foursome when they’re all swinging good bats.
3. Shortstop–Brendan Ryan? Tyler Greene? Felipe Lopez? Ryan has been awful, offensively and defensively. He can be a nut job on the field some days with the attention span of a gnat. Can he turn back the clock to last year? Greene has shown at time he can be a good glove guy with good speed and a little power. But he can’t seem to show in consistently. And Lopez can hit, but he doesn’t field much. So will someone else take over the position?
4. John Mozeliak–Perhaps, the Cards general manager can find a shortstop? Another starting pitcher? The Cards have money to spend, but they don’t probably have much to give up in a trade. So Mo has his work cut out, because the team isn’t as good as it needs to be.
5. A spark–Maybe this spark comes in a trade (starting infielder/starting pitcher?). But it has to come from somewhere. The team looks lifeless too many times. It needs an emotional leader. I’d like to see Jim Edmonds come back in a part-time role. He wouldn’t play much. But he could give people the kick in the a…umm, a kick in the pants when necessary.


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