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December 22, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Plains States

The Hawkeye State dominates the list of competitive races in the Plains. After the region hosted the high-profile North Dakota and Missouri Senate races in 2012, its trio of Senate races this cycle are likely to see action in the primaries — but not in November.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Plains states:

South Dakota Senate. Gov. Mike Rounds is the front-runner for the GOP nomination and the general election. His new primary challenger, state Sen. Larry Rhoden, does not fundamentally change the race, even if he runs as a conservative alternative to Rounds. Meanwhile, former House candidate Rick Weiland is running on the Democratic side, but his own party’s leadership is openly unhappy with their prospects if he is the nominee. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Lean Republican.

Iowa’s 3rd District. Democrats don’t believe GOP Rep. Tom Latham’s victory over Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell last year proved much of anything. The party recruited former state Sen. Staci Appel to run for the seat (after she initially declined a bid). But if Latham is in serious trouble next year, the Republican brand is tanking. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Republican Favored.

Iowa Senate. Democrats are well-positioned to hold retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s open seat with their likely nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley. After Latham took a pass, Republicans are left with a crowded field of candidates. One of them could catch fire and make the race interesting. For now, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating is Lean Democrat.

Iowa’s 1st District. Braley’s open seat could see a competitive contest even though it leans Democratic by the numbers. Democrats have a crowded field, while Republicans are trying to woo state Speaker Kraig Paulsen into the race. It’s a Republican long shot but worth watching. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Currently Safe Democrat.

Nebraska Senate. The race to replace Sen. Mike Johanns will take place in the GOP primary. The field is still taking shape but former state Treasurer Shane Osborn and Midlands University President Ben Sasse look like top contenders. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Currently Safe Republican.

Which races would you add to or subtract from the list?

Note: The Plains region includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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