As Democrats in Iowa pounded on one another ahead of their June primary, eight-term Republican Rep. Jim Nussle, was cruising to the GOP nomination for governor, hoping to take over after the run of Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack.
But although Iowa's 1st District congressman faced no opposition in the primary, he knows there is still a long road ahead.
"I have not had a race yet for public office that has not been a challenge," he told Lee Newspapers in May. "I'm used to challenging races."
He was first elected in 1990 at age 30, eking out a 50 percent to 49 percent victory over his better-financed Democratic challenger, becoming the youngest member of the 102nd Congress.
Nussle was a key player in Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution and made national headlines by wearing a paper bag over his head on the House floor in 1991 to protest the Democratic leaders' refusal to make full disclosure of House bank overdrafts, according to the National Journal's Almanac of American Politics.
A fiscal conservative, he voted against agriculture appropriation increases and moved to cut congressional salaries by 5 percent each year until the federal budget was balanced.
He threw his hat in the ring to become chairman of the House Budget Committee, and with then-Majority Leader Dick Armey's support, garnered the seat in 2001.
Some of his fiscal reforms succeeded, including a revised Medicare reimbursement formula that he said would give Iowa $438 million more over 10 years, according to the Almanac. But some did not, such as an across-the-board spending cut in 2003.
Republicans' six-year term limits on chairmanships means Nussle could not continue at the Budget Committee's helm. In May 2005, he announced he would seek the office of governor.
He hit the campaign trail with abandon, spending nearly $300,000 on television ads, including spots highlighting his biography and his plan for boosting the state's ethanol industry, during the primaries. He and his staff, according to finance reports, also traveled more than 100,000 miles to events around Iowa during the first half of 2006 alone.
Nussle was born in Des Moines and grew up in Chicago, but returned to Iowa to attend Luther College in Decorah. He received a law degree from Drake Law School and began his career in public service as Delaware County attorney.
He is married to Karen and they have two teenage children, Sarah and Mark.
Web site: www.jimnussle.com/nussle