The Iowa U.S. Senate Race
By Steve Deace
I don’t want Bruce Braley to represent my state in the U.S. Senate.
That’s why I’m writing this now, while there’s still time to do something about it. Because after speaking with numerous people I trust who have been following the Republican Senate primary more closely than even I have, their consensus is inaugurating Senator Braley is the most likely outcome of the current path we’re on.
I’ve had numerous conversations the past few months about the U.S. Senate race in my home state with many of the best sources I have both locally and nationally. Whether they’re currently backing a candidate or not, and most of them aren’t because they’re underwhelmed by the current crop of candidates, their conclusions are mostly the same.
Almost nobody I know believes any of these candidates can win, and most of the people I know wouldn’t want most of these candidates in office even if they could.
“There’s maybe one guy in the race right now we would actually like to see in the U.S. Senate,” a little birdie at a national organization that supports non-establishment candidates for public office told me. “Based on what we know about the rest of them, we fear they’ll make us regret our decision to help them shortly after they get elected.”
Here’s a sampling of comments on the current crop of candidates I’ve heard from those in the know (in alphabetical order):
Former Talk Show Host Sam Clovis – “He’s got by far the most impressive organization, but he can’t raise any money. He wins every straw poll, but he has few friends in the Liberty movement because he opposed their party leadership, and that’s maybe up to one-fourth of the primary electorate. He probably has the best chance to get to 35% (and avoid a nominating convention), but right now it’s a slim chance. ‘Undecided’ is running away with it.”
State Senator Joni Ernst – “She’s the Terry Branstad/Karl Rove candidate. That’s why (GOP consultant) David Kochel is hovering around her campaign. She’s their gal. When it was obvious Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds wasn’t a viable candidate, the establishment needed another female replacement. They think the base will simply anoint her as another Sarah Palin just because she’s a woman. Yes, that’s how stupid they really believe their base is.”
Note—Ernst campaign manager David Polyansky denied to me via email that Kochel is directly involved in Ernst’s campaign. Kochel is known in Iowa circles for publicly calling for the party to abandon issues like marriage and decrease the influence conservative Christians have within the party.
Businessman Mark Jacobs – “So I’m supposed to believe a former supporter of Arlen Specter is with me on the issues? When I met with him he seemed like a nice guy, but it’s obvious he was in way over his head—dangerously naïve even.”
Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker—“He looks the part and has the commanding presence you’d expect from an ex-jock, but there’s also a sense he’ll say anything to win. He started his campaign saying no to repeal Obamacare, and then hopped on the defund Obamacare bandwagon. People run for office either to do something or to be somebody. Matt is obviously the latter.”
Former Senate Aide David Young—“Combines less substance than Clovis with less stage presence than Whitaker. I don’t know anybody that is a Young supporter. Nobody.”
Everyone I talked to was hopeful the field is not finalized. There is a lot of national interest in Iowa, because it is considered strategically vital for Republican hopes of winning back the majority in the U.S. Senate next year. They also believe the seat being vacated by Tom Harkin is very winnable with a quality candidate.
There has been speculation recently that former GOP Lt. Governor nominee Bob Vander Plaats could be a late entrant into the race. Vander Plaats is 0-for-3 in elections when his own name is on the ballot, but did spearhead the historic effort to oust three State Supreme Court justices in 2010 and has been on the winning side of the last two Iowa Caucuses. Vander Plaats has substantial resources promising to support him if he enters the race, but it remains unknown even to those closest to him (like myself) whether he really has the fire in the belly for a Senate run, let alone if he actually wants the job of U.S. Senator.
There’s also been speculation about Republican Party of Iowa State Party Co-Chairman David Fischer entering the race. Fischer acknowledged on his Facebook wall a few months ago he was considering a run. Fischer is a social conservative but is far better known for his Ron Paul/Liberty Iowa connections. If Paul’s national network were to provide the resources to back Fischer he could mount a serious candidacy.
But while my sources are hopeful the field expands soon, they also think the time is running out for that to happen.
“I know Vander Plaats is planning on waiting until sometime next year to decide,” one little birdie said. “With all due respect to Vander Plaats, I think that’s crazy. I can understand wanting to wait to see what the establishment will do first, but once you start getting past January that doesn’t leave you with a lot of time.”
(You can friend “Steve Deace” on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow)