The Republican who leads the U.S. House is in Iowa today (Friday) campaigning with two Republican congressional candidates. House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois appeared at a morning fundraiser for Republican candidate Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny who’s running in Iowa’s third congressional district. “This is an important race.

It’s a key race for us,” Hastert says. “You know, we’re playing defense in a couple of places across the country but we’re also playing offense and this is one of the seats we’re playing (offense) on.”

Lamberti’s running against incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell, a 72-year-old who has lost over 80 pounds after a noncancerous abdominal abscess was removed last fall. Hastert says the 43-year-old Lamberti has the “vitality” to be a congressman, but Hastert says that’s no slap at the elderly Boswell. “Not at all,” Hastert says. “I know that Jeff does have the vitality…He does have a passion to change some things.”

Lamberti has criticized congress, which is Republican-led, for failing to control federal spending. Hastert says he “welcomes…fighters” like Lamberti to accomplish that. “We do need budget reform because we need something long-lasting and, you know, Republicans may not be in charge forever, but we need something to be able to control the budget,” Hastert says. “We need long-term reform and I’m glad that Jeff Lamberti is in there talking about that because it’s important.”

Hastert campaigns this (Friday) afternoon with Mike Whalen of Bettendorf, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s first congressional district. “Every race is a local race and people look and say ‘What can my congressman do for me? How is…he or she representing the ideas that I believe in?'” Hastert says. “They’re looking at a congressman for a long-term investment.” Hastert accuses Democrats of running a campaign that aims to make the election results in November a “huge national poll.”

During the month of August Hastert will have campaigned with 42 Republican candidates for the U.S. House. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t think Republicans will keep control,” Hastert says. “But you don’t take any race for granted.”