Gross Gives the Media What it Loves – A Spat Between Republicans

As a former chief-of-staff to Governor Terry Branstad and as a former gubernatorial candidate himself, Doug Gross understands state government and campaigns better than most.  This weekend, the opinionated Gross was a guest on WHO TV’s “The Insiders” with Dave Price.  Gross and Price discussed a number of topics, but Gross’s harsh critique of Republican Congressman Steve King made headlines over the weekend.

Gross was asked about a comment that King made at a rally in Nebraska last week.  King told the audience that an immigration official once told him that the number of deaths caused by illegal immigrants in American is likely, “in multiples of the victims of September 11. Now that hits home, doesn’t it? … Three thousand times something.”

King was citing Mike Cutler, a former senior special agent with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.  It’s also worth noting that King was speaking at a remembrance ceremony for Louise Sollowin, a 93-year old Nebraska woman who was brutally raped and beaten by 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico in July. Sollowin died following the violent and unspeakable act.

Now her family and many in the community are wanting to make sure similar acts never happen again and are calling for the enforcement immigration laws as well as an end to sanctuary policies across the country that protect illegal migrants.  Sollowin’s killer had been in the country illegally for the past four years.

In responding to Price’s question about King’s recent statement that illegal immigrants are responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans each year, Gross said, “I’m frankly, as a Republican, as one who’s been involved with our party for a long time, sick and tired of what Steve King is saying.”  Gross then went on to talk about the positive contributions that LEGAL immigrates make, and he said that some people disagree with King’s positions on immigration policy.

At the Nebraska event, King spoke about the need to simply enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books.  That’s hardly a controversial position, but those who favor legalizing the millions of illegal immigrants already in the county took the opportunity to find something controversial in King’s remarks and use those words to discredit the western Iowa Congressman.

It appears that Gross went off on King without having a clue about the event at which he spoke or and without having heard King’s remarks in context.  By publically chastening King, Gross gave the liberal media exactly what they wanted.  It took little time for Gross’s rebuke of King to make its way to the Des Moines Register.

This is not the first time that Gross has used an interview to widen the divide between factions within the Republican Party.  Following the 2008 presidential caucuses, Gross repeatedly attacked the state’s Christian conservative activists by describing Iowa to the New York Times as a “right-wing outpost.”  After being stunned by Mike Huckabee’s sound defeat of Mitt Romney in the 2008 caucuses, Gross said, “We look like Camp Christian out here.”

Even though some may agree with his most recent critique of King, a large number of primary voters and conservative activists couldn’t disagree more. Gross’s comment not only hurts the Republican Party in Iowa and Congressman King, but it also hurts Gross himself.  While it would be nearly impossible for Gross to win a Republican nomination these days, he remains active in major political campaigns in the state.  His association with candidates could have a negative impact on those campaigns because Gross antagonizes the very people whose support these candidates need to win a primary.

Gross is entitled to his opinion, but it would be helpful if he could get his point across without undermining King in the media.  There are thousands of ways one could have addressed the question that was asked by Dave Price, but unfortunately, Gross decided to give the media what they wanted – a public spat between Republicans.  How unfortunate.

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Outrage Over King is Misplaced – The Friday Round-Up

The national media and many of his colleagues have blasted Congressman King for having the audacity to point out that the immigration reform bill that is working its way though congress would grant amnesty to some unsavory individuals if approved.  Now King didn’t help himself any when he described them as 130 lb kids with calves the size of cantaloupes because they are toting 75 lbs of marijuana across the boarder, but the uproar over his remarks misses one key fact – he’s right.

If the United State government grants amnesty to people who have illegally entered the country based solely at their age at the time, then there is no question that some of these individuals are going to be lawbreakers.  They could be drug dealers, drug runners, prostitutes, pimps, coyotes, or ever murderers.  That’s the problem with blanket amnesty programs.

All we need to do is look to the neighboring state of Nebraska for a current example of why King is correct.  Sergio Perez, a 19 year-old who authorities say is in the country illegally, beat and raped a 93-year old Omaha woman in her home on Sunday.  She died on Wednesday.

What provisions are in the immigration reform bill that would prevent someone like Perez from becoming a citizen?  None.  King was trying to make that simple point this week, but liberals and the media got all distracted by cantaloupe.  The pro-immigration reform crowd only wants to talk about young people who are in this country illegally who are model citizens, not those who are not.  We need to talk about the good and the bad.

It’s too bad our society and the media is so sensitive to the truth that they attack those who actually are tying to make a valid point in the debate.  Could he have said it better?  Of course, but his point is a valid one.  I guess he should have just said something like, for every one that is a valedictorian, there is one that assaults, rapes, and kills a 93 year-old woman in Omaha.

Oh, and if Speaker Boehner and other people want to be outraged about something, be outraged about what Sergio Perez did, not what Steve King said.

Who knew? Vander Plaats “Not Big” on Santorum

Over the past couple of years you might have heard that Bob Vander Plaats is kind of a big deal.  He topples Supreme Court Justices with a flick of a finger, and his political endorsement is so powerful, it alone is responsible for Mike Huckabee’s and Rick Santorum’s victories in the Iowa Caucuses.

So color me surprised when Vander Plaats told Yahoo News that he’s wasn’t really all that invested in Santorum.  After gushing over Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Yahoo News reporter Chris Moody said something like hey, I thought you were a big Santorum backer.  “Not big,” Vander Plaats said. “I came in the last two weeks of the campaign to endorse him.”

Santorum is scheduled to speak at Vander Plaats’ big conservative confab next month in Ames.  I wonder what Santorum thinks about that statement.

Ernst Nails the Fundamentals

Becoming a candidate for public office isn’t that difficult.  Just file the appropriate paperwork and voila, you’re a candidate.  Actually running a competent campaign requires a little more effort.  Still, its not that difficult, but a surprisingly number of campaigns still struggle with the basic tasks.  Joni Ernst has only been an official candidate for a couple weeks, but one can already tell that her campaign is fundamentally sound.

A campaign announcement tour with multiple stops around the state. Check

Follow up the announcement tour with a formal endorsement from one of your colleagues. Check

There are other candidates in this race that could have easily announced some endorsements by now, yet for one reason or another, they have chosen not to.  I don’t understand the mindset that a slow start to a campaign is just fine.  It’s not.  Sure the primary is still 11 months away, but they need to make it to primary day.  The race is now on.  It’s time to campaign.  It’s time to compete.  A leisurely pace does nothing but guarantee a primary loss.

Whitaker Attends D.C. Fundraiser with Senator Grassley

Matt Whitaker didn’t raise any money form Washington D.C. in the last quarter, but that is likely to change after having a fundraiser with Senator Grassley on Tuesday.  Sources tell that the event drew about 45 people and Grassley praised Whitaker for being a good U.S. Attorney and good campaigner.  We will not know how much Whitaker raised at the event until sometime in October.

RPI Labeled as “Dysfunctional”

Roll Call and the Associated Press both labeled the Republican Party of Iowa as being “dysfunctional” this week.  The current administration, which has strong ties to Ron and Rand Paul, obviously disagrees with the assertion, but the division between those who currently control the party and the more traditional Republican activists has been on display for all to see for a while now.  Still, it’s never a good thing when the national media begins to label you as being dysfunctional.  Those who openly oppose the current administration can laugh all they want, but this is just another thing that will make it more difficult for Iowa to maintain its First-in-the-Nation status.



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The Next Steve King? Braley Thinks So

Congressman Bruce Braley’s latest fundraising pitch to Iowa Democrats is mostly about Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, who he calls, “the next Steve King.” The Braley campaign also mentions Mark Jacobs and Bob Vander Plaats, but it makes no mention of either of the two other formally declared candidates, Matt Whitaker and David Young.

Braley’s assertion that Clovis is a King clone may get Democrats all riled up, but it’s political gold for Clovis in a Republican primary.  While the race for the Republican nomination is wide open, most people would consider Clovis a long shot, yet he clearly has Braley’s attention.

Clovis has earned a lot of media coverage this week by attending events in Johnson and Dallas Counties and by weighing in on the major issues of the day.  Below is the Braley email in its entirety.

From: Molly Scherrman
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2013 4:18 PM
Subject: The next Steve King

You may have thought Steve King wasn’t running for Senate in Iowa, but unless we meet our fundraising goal this Sunday, we may give the next Steve King a leg up.

That’s right, the next Steve King: a Rush Limbaugh-style talk radio host from Sioux City named Sam Clovis.

He’s a self-described “red meat conservative” who wants to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Clovis has claimed that the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA would open the door to marriages between more than two people.

Sound familiar?

And just this week, he called immigration reform “an abomination.”

Don’t let the next Steve King build momentum. Please donate $10 or more today before Sunday’s FEC deadline.

And just like Steve King, Sam Clovis is “gaining a lot of support from tea party people.” You know what that means: we’re getting a candidate who can energize his base, raise money fast, and win tough elections.

If that’s not enough, two other potential challengers have emerged. One you may already know: Steve King’s right hand man, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, who says he’s “going to be very involved in the US Senate race” in 2014. The other is a multi-millionaire ex-Wall Street banker, Mark Jacobs, who can fund an entire statewide campaign with the stroke of a pen through his checkbook.

We need to make sure that we’ve got the ability to fight back against another Tea Party extremist. Will you chip in $10 or more before Sunday’s deadline to help us?

Iowa deserves a Senator who will represent and work to solve real problems for all Iowans, not someone who will only work to promote their extreme views and block progress at every step.

Thanks for all you do,


Paid for by Braley for Iowa
PO Box 390
Waterloo, IA 50704

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Top Iowa Republicans take a pass on US Senate campaign

It began in late February when Congressman Tom Latham announced that he would forego a bid for the Senate and instead focus on representing Iowa’s Third Congressional District, which, at the time, he had only represented for 56 days. Latham’s decision not to seek the seat currently occupied by Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin disappointed many Republican activists who viewed Latham as the GOP’s strongest possible candidate.

With Latham out of the mix, Iowa Republicans turned their attention to Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Congressman Steve King. Each would be a formidable statewide candidate, but in the last two weeks all three have officially taken a pass on a 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.

The state of Iowa hasn’t seen an open U.S. Senate seat in forty years, and yet, the best-known Republicans in the state have taken a pass. That is something that hasn’t been lost on the national media, who have been trying to understand how so many big-name politicians could pass up what could be the best opportunity to win a seat in the most exclusive club in the world, the United State’s Senate.

To be fair, it’s not just the media that’s scratching their heads. Republican activists are also bewildered. While there are still plenty of options for Republicans to explore, it’s also important to understand why those who were perceived as the strongest candidates took a pass.

Some reporters have hinted that some Iowa Republicans may be taking a pass on the race because raising the money necessary to win the seat may be a difficult task. While raising the 15 to 20 million it might take to win a primary and general election will be difficult, Republicans are not scared of what it will take to put together a formidable campaign. The presumptive Democrat nominee, Congressman Bruce Braley, has posted impressive fundraising numbers, but he’s not scaring off potential Republican challengers either.

To understand what’s going on, one needs to look to the past and the future. King and Latham are both coming off high-profile races in 2012. Redistricting pitted Latham against another member of congress. Latham never really struggled in his 2012 campaign, but facing off with another member of congress means you have to bring your “A” game. For the first time since being elected to congress in 2002, King drew a tough, well-funded opponent in former Iowa First Lady Christy Vilsack.

The two high-profile contests required extra effort from King and Latham, and so turning right around and taking on a U.S. Senate campaign is probably not all that appealing. The 2012 campaigns in the 3rd and 4th District also required both King and Latham to spend most, if not all, their time campaigning on their district.

Another factor that cannot be ignored is that Harkin’s retirement caught Republicans completely off guard. Many times candidates with an eye towards future elections will begin to travel around the state to build relationships and boost their name ID. In 2012, Republicans were focused on winning congressional seats and local legislative races, not statewide elections.

In regards to Reynolds and Northey, the timing may not have been right for them, and both will likely have other opportunities to explore in the near future. Reynolds was an intriguing possibility. She has all the raw materials that one looks for in a statewide candidate, yet her role as Lt. Governor has not allowed her to define who she is politically beyond being Governor Terry Branstad’s running mate.

Reynolds and Northey could also be looking towards future opportunities instead of the one that is available today. Both could look at running for governor in 2018, and Senator Grassley is up for re-election in 2016. It is possible that Grassley could follow Harkin and retire, but it’s also easy to see him run for another term. Either way, Reynolds and Northey are young enough to look down the road for future opportunities.

While Republicans may be a little disappointed that these four have decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, there decision to stay put may actually beneficial to whoever becomes the Republican nominee. Having Latham and King running for re-election in 2012 should help the Republican ticket in their districts. Latham has already shown he can run well in Polk County, even with President Obama on the ballot, but Branstad and Reynolds also run strong in areas where Republicans sometimes struggle.

There is also something to be said about breathing new life into the Republican Party. It’s obvious why Latham and King would have been formidable U.S. Senate candidates, but running a sitting member of congress against Braley might not be the ideal matchup. Governor Branstad alluded to this in his weekly press conference last week, but the media was too busy trying to make his words into a swipe against King rather than his intended target, Braley.

The easiest opponent for Braley to run against would have been one with an extensive record. With King and Latham out of the race, Braley is now the hunted instead of the hunter. Braley is now the one with an extensive record that he will have to defend against his Republican opponent. This allows the Republican candidate to be the aggressor, just like Republicans were in 2010 when they posted wins from county court houses to the halls of congress.

On a final note, many voters are disgusted with politicians today. While many politicians are outstanding public servants, they are all perceived as being hyper-partisan and ego driven individuals. That’s obviously not the case with King, Latham, Northey, and Reynolds. All four of them made it clear that they wanted to continue to represent Iowans in the capacity to which they were elected.
The world of politics is full of people trying to climb the career ladder. It’s refreshing to see that these four individuals are not driven by ego, but rather by public service. That’s something to celebrate, even if we wanted them to seek higher office.

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King should “Punt” not “Pass” on U.S. Senate race

In the span of less than a week, two high-profile Iowa Republicans have taken themselves out of the mix for a 2014 U.S. Senate run.  Last week it was Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.  This week it was Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who pulled his name from consideration.

Meanwhile, Congressman Steve King continues to contemplate a run of his own.  King has been publically mulling over the idea for more than three months now.  During that span, he has told the media that the odds of him running for the seat are over 50 percent, suggesting he will make a decision soon.  Yet, we still all anxiously wait for his decision.

King has repeatedly told the media that he wants to make an informed decision, which likely meant he wants to line up key backers and look at some polling numbers.  Nobody can fault him for wanting to do that.  However, a quality assessment takes some time, but not three months.  Every time that King is questioned about his decision, his answer is usually that he will be making up his mind in the next week to ten days.  Reporters wait with baited breath, only to see the western Iowa conservative firebrand kick the can down the road a bit farther in his next interview.

This week King told a reporter that he was “embarrassed” that he hadn’t come to a decision yet.  That moment of honesty allowed reporters write articles that poke fun at his indecision.  King’s process has dragged on so long that John Deeth, a liberal blogger, compared King to Brett Favre.  Deeth tweeted, “The Steve King will he or won’t he decision drama is starting to rival the final seasons of Brett Favre.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous I didn’t come up with that line.

King finds himself in a difficult predicament.  On one hand, he is preventing the primary to officially get underway by not making a decision on whether or not he will run for the Senate.  That’s good if you actually want to run for the Senate, but if he doesn’t pull the trigger, he ends up looking like a fool for taking so long to make up his mind.

If I was advising King, I’d encourage him to take a third option, punt!

King is obviously not ready to pull the trigger on a U.S. Senate campaign, nor is he ready to close the door on running.  The only people his decision really affect are the media, who want some certainty in the race so that it’s easy to cover, and the other potential candidates, who know they would never beat King in a primary and are chomping at the bit to get going.

Instead of announcing that he will or will not run for the U.S. Senate, King should announce that he’s going take a pass for now and assess the race late in the fall.  This would give candidates like Joni Ernst, Matt Schultz, and Matt Whitaker the green light to proceed with their campaigns.  If one or two of them are able to find success over the next six to seven months, then there is no reason for King to consider getting in the race.  If the Republican field looks weak and the prospects of defeating Braley in the general election are slim, it would allow King to enter the race at that time.

As things currently stand, King is in a no-win situation.  If he continues to kick the can down the road, he looks indecisive and will be viewed as not taking the race seriously.  If he announces he’s running, Republicans and the media alike are going to wonder what took so long.  If he bows out, liberals will call him a coward and Republicans will wonder what good it did for him to drag out his decision so long.

The smart play is to punt and let those eager to get going formally jump into the race.  There is more than a year before the Republican primary, which means there is plenty of time for King to survey the land.  The worst thing he could do is continue to let the media hash out his decision making process in public.  The best laid campaign plans are done in private, not in the newspaper.

Punting the decision would give King and the other potential candidates some space in which they all can operate.  There is no reason why King should be forced to say yes or no to a Senate race 18 months before the general election, but he needs to regroup and take a step back and reassess his options without the help of the media.

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Reynolds deserves serious consideration for open U.S. Senate seat

Iowans are routinely reminded that they are one of just two states that have never elected a woman to Congress or to a governorship.  It is a distinction that we share with the State of Mississippi. Some say that makes Iowans look old fashioned, but there have been female candidates on the general election ballot in Iowa stretching back to at least the 2000 election cycle.

A number of women have run for Congress over the last decade, but none have been successful.  In that time span, only one woman, Joyce Schulte, ran for office when no incumbent was on the ballot.  Her problem was that the district she was running in was the old 5th Congressional District, which Steve King won easily and has occupied ever since.

Despite a long list of female candidates running for federal office, only three times in Iowa’s history has a woman ran for office in an open seat.  Schulte against King in 2002, Dr. Sheila McGuire Riggs against Tom Latham in 1994, and Roxanne Conlin against Terry Branstad in 1982.  To help understand the significance of that point, realize that King, Latham, and Branstad all occupy the same offices today.  Branstad took a 12 year hiatus between his fourth and fifth terms, but this does illustrate how slowly the political landscape changes in Iowa.

With that little Iowa history lesson in mind, it’s fascinating that the only female candidate being mentioned for the open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa isn’t prompting more discussion.  As quickly as Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds’ name was mentioned as a possible senate candidate, a number of Iowa Republicans disregarded the idea.

An article in the National Journal was titled, “Branstad-Backed Push for Reynolds Falls Flat With Iowa GOP Grassroots.”  Stephen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University followed up with his own version of the story for the Des Moines Register, which was titled, “Some put off by Branstad trying to orchestrate Senate nomination.”

The notion that Branstad is somehow orchestrating a Reynolds candidacy for the U.S. Senate is somewhat misleading.  What is the Governor supposed to say to the media when asked about his Lt. Governor?  Of course he thinks highly of Reynolds and her ability as a statewide candidate.  Why else would he have selected her to be his running mate in 2010.  The media’s perception that Branstad must be behind the Reynolds for U.S. Senate talk could also be considered to be sexist in and of it self.

But, let’s not go there.

The National Journal piece and its regurgitation by Professor Schmidt was based on the opinions of four Iowans: Chuck Laudner, Republican Party of Iowa Chair A.J. Spiker, National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, and Bob Vander Plaats.  While it’s true that none of them gave Reynolds a ringing endorsement – the closest they came was Scheffler saying, “I suppose so,” when asked if Reynolds would be a successful candidate – it’s way too early to write of Reynolds running for the U.S. Senate as a failed trial balloon.

Yes, former GOP insider Doug Gross pontificated that King, Reynolds, or Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey would not run for the U.S. Senate, but what does he know?  Reynolds herself responded to Gross’ statement saying, “Doug Gross makes a lot of predictions. That’s just what Doug Gross does. I haven’t had a conversation with Doug or told him any of my intentions moving forward.”

The truth is that we don’t know yet what Reynolds is going to do, and that’s because all eyes are still on Congressman Steve King, who has yet to make up his mind regarding running for the Senate himself.  Defeating King in a primary would be practically impossible, which is why the field is frozen until he makes up his mind.

While Republicans like Gross, Vander Plaats, Scheffler, Laudner, and Spiker seem to be cool on the idea of a Reynolds candidacy, the idea deserves a much more throrough vetting before Republicans disregard it.  Let’s also not forget that had those five individuals been asked about a potential Branstad candidacy in the summer of 2009, all but one of them would have been equally critical of his chances.

Branstad only went on to garner 50 percent of the vote in a three-way primary and beat his nearest challenger, Vander Plaats, by nine points.  Branstad then went on defeat an incumbent Governor for the first time in Iowa since the 1960’s.  When analyzing a potential candidate, the media needs to be mindful of whose opinion they are seeking and whether or not their thoughts on the race are representative of primary voters.

Even though most Iowa Republicans likely would have listed either Tom Latham or Steve King as their preferred candidate to run for the open senate seat, Reynolds has a number of positive attributes that should be overlooked.  First and foremost, there is the fact that Reynolds is a “she” not a “he.”  Reynolds would give Republicans a fresh face on the top of the ticket, and she immediately makes it difficult for Braley to employ a campaign that uses gender issues to paint Republicans as an out-of-date party of old white men.

Reynolds is also an exceptional retail campaigner.  Like Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Reynolds is an engaging figure who people like to be around.  This is an attribute that should never be overlooked.  While voters look at a candidate’s policy positions to determine if they will support him or her, whether or not they like that individual is also a major factor.  Who was more likeable, John McCain or Barack Obama?  Mitt Romney or President Obama?  Jim Nussle or Chet Culver?  When compared to Congressman Bruce Braley in that regard, Reynolds is the more engaging figure.

Reynolds’ positive personality and abilities on the campaign trail alone make her a formidable candidate, but especially when combined with her current position as Lt. Governor.  The state budget in Iowa is in great fiscal shape, and the economy is humming right along.  Reynolds would be able to make a strong case against Braley as far as budgets are concerned.  It’s not only an issue on which she could attack Braley, but it would also allow her to speak to the current administration’s own strengths.  Some Democrats have suggested that Reynolds’ ties to Branstad would weigh her down, but it’s actually a strength and not a weakness.

Due to her current position, people will always view he has a potential gubernatorial candidate once Branstad decides to step down, but running for a federal office might also be Reynolds’ best path to higher office.  There is no doubt that if Reynolds ever runs for governor, she will have to defend Branstad’s record.  That’s not the case if she runs for federal office.

In fact, Reynolds could easily take the theme of the Branstad administration, responsible government and budgets, and use it to her advantage in a senate race. Those themes are popular, and most Iowans feel good about the current direction of the state, but running for federal office would also allow her to differentiate herself from Branstad on issues should she choose to do so.

Let’s also not forget that Reynolds was an accomplished elected official long before she became Branstad’s running mate.  Before getting elected to the state senate in 2008, Reynolds served four terms as the Clarke County Treasurer.  Reynolds was instrumental in modernizing county governments around the state by leading the effort to allow Iowans to make their various tax payments on-line.

While her current role as Lt. Governor has allowed here to build statewide presence and relationships across the state, her rural Iowa roots will have great appeal should she run for the U.S. Senate.  Reynolds’ association with Branstad has also put her in direct contact with Branstad’s fundraising network, which is by far the best in the state.  Running for the U.S. Senate could ultimately exceed $15 million, which means that those fundraising connections are invaluable.

Reynolds has many strengths, but like anyone else, she also has her weaknesses.  That said, some of the recent criticisms from some social conservatives is unfounded.  It seems that their main objection to her is her association with Branstad.  A segment of social conservatives in the state view Branstad negatively because they believe he hasn’t done enough to advance their issues, but hardly any socially conservative language has reached his desk for him to sign.

Reynolds, on the other hand, has a recent record as a state senator that should please most social conservatives:

SF 111 – A bill for an act requiring the adoption of Internet filter policies by public libraries that receive state funds.

SF 232 – A bill for an act requiring drug testing for persons applying for or receiving state assistance.

SF 233 – A bill for an act relating to the determination of when life begins and acknowledging the rights, privileges, and immunities of an unborn child.

SJR 2001 – A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state.

SJR 2006 – A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa relating to the appointment of nominees to the supreme court by the governor.

Reynolds record in the Iowa Senate is not one that would cause much concern for most social conservatives.  Beyond social policies, Reynolds also backed legislation that extended hunting seasons, extended second amendment rights, and limited the federal government’s ability to impose nationalized healthcare on the people of Iowa.  Despite some of the comments in various publications, her actual record would be considered a strength in a Republican primary.

Perhaps Reynolds’ greatest weakness as a U.S. Senate candidate is the fact that she received two OWI’s over a decade ago.  Those opposed to her running for the senate have already indicated that they would use the personal issue in a campaign against her, but using that information in a campaign is a double-edged sword.  The two OWI’s would be more of an obstacle had she not openly talked about it during Branstad’s 2010 race.

The incidents are a blemish on her record, but it is also a story of perseverance.  One probably doesn’t need to knock on many doors in the neighborhood they live to find Iowans who have similar or even worse struggles.  To hit Reynolds with that kind of attack would likely backfire.  It would be one thing if there were any indication that Reynolds still experienced similar lapses of judgment, but throughout the 2010 campaign and her two years as Lt. Governor, it would be wrong to say that she has not represented Iowa well.

Maybe the biggest obstacle that Reynolds will have to overcome is knowledge of federal issues verses state issues.  Her day job requires her to know and understand state polices.  At a recent breakfast club meeting in Des Moines, Reynolds displayed that she has no problem dealing with state issues.  It’s unknown how well she will deal with the plethora of federal issues that a candidate can be asked about on the campaign trail.  That’s where discipline and hiring a good staff is vitally important.

Sometimes people look so hard for the perfect candidate that they ignore or can’t see the positive attributes of the most obvious candidates.  That may be the case with Iowa Republicans and Reynolds.  She’s not perfect.  Nobody is.  That said,

Reynolds at least deserves serious consideration for the open U.S. Senate seat.  Republicans could do a lot worse.









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2014 Plotlines Appear in Latest Fundraising Reports

Having spent a considerable amount of my professional life fundraising for political candidates and organizations, I’m always interested in perusing through the latest financial reports for Iowa politicians.  Some activists scoff at the role money and fundraising play in politics, but raising money is a necessity for campaigns of all sizes.  This is especially true in statewide campaigns.

In many ways campaigns are really no different from business startups.  An idea becomes a plan, and that plan becomes a business model or campaign strategy.  One can’t start a business without access to capital, and you can’t start a campaign without it either.  The difference between the business world and politics is that no matter how good your campaign plan may be, no bank is going to loan you money to launch a political campaign.

In business, one could look at sales numbers, pending orders, inventory, number of employees, and assets to make a conclusion about the health of a company.  In politics, there is very little empirical data available by which to judge a campaign.  In large contests, there is polling data galore, but that’s not always relievable.  Rightly or wrongly, political campaigns are mostly judged on perception.  In fact, often the only bit of empirical data we have to go off of is fundraising, and while that certainly tells us a story, it never tells us the entire story.

The campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday give us plenty of clues as to what 2014 will bring.  It’s all very interesting.   Below is how I read things.

Congressman Bruce Braley

Congressman Bruce Braley is the only declared candidate in Iowa’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, and as such, he is the only person who will be disclosing his fundraising activity.  Braley got some good headlines last week when he announced to the press that he had raised over $1 million dollars in the first quarter.  I might take issue with the word “raised,” since Braley transferred $179,000 from his U.S. House account to reach the million-dollar threshold, but the money he raised is still impressive.

Braley’s report is nearly 600 pages long.  He discloses the smallest of contributions and expenditures.  For example, he purchased something at Walgreens in Waterloo for $4.19.  His report is littered with contributions from trial attorneys from around the county.  He also received contributions from Christie Vilsack’s and Leonard Boswell’s now defunct campaigns, rather than personal contributions from those individuals.

As Iowans dealt with winter weather throughout the early part of the spring, Braley spent a number of days in Miami raising money for his U.S. Senate bid.  His visit to Miami likely coincided with a gathering of trial lawyers.  Braley also held a fundraising event in Ney York City.  Harvey Hirschfeld, the President of LawCash, hosted Braley’s New York fundraiser.  LawCash is a lawsuit lender that provides funding to plaintiffs and their attorneys.  Lawsuit lenders are the legal equivalent of payday loans.  They prey on people in unfortunate situations, and those people often end up seeing the majority of their settlements going to companies like LawCash.  The practice has been called “legal loan-sharking” because of the high interest rates and fees, which can sometimes gobble the entire settlement.

Braley’s million-dollar haul is still impressive, but when you see where the money is coming from, it loses a lot of its luster. Braley is going to have the money to run a vigorous campaign, but raising so much money from out of state attorneys could also have consequences.  Iowans will soon elect a new U.S. Senator for the first time in 30 years.  If out-of-state special interest are funding Braley’s campaign, Iowa voters might not like it. will likely have more on Braley’s report in the near future.

Congressman Steve King

Many people have suggested that the speculation surrounding Congressman King running for the U.S. Senate would help him raise money.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  King raised just $87,199.45 in the first quarter of the year, and $15,000 of that was a refund from his media vendor.  In fact, over $50,000 of the $90,000 he raised came from five individuals, three PACs, and his refund.

King has not ruled out a U.S. Senate run, but his first quarter actions sure don’t look like someone who’s about to embark on a statewide campaign.  King raised a lot of money for his 2012 re-election campaign against Christie Vilsack.  Another fundraising rule you should all get to know is that the money typically flows to where it is needed.  If people think you have a difficult race, they will pony up large contributions.  If they think you are a shoe-in for re-election they will send their money elsewhere.

Congressman Tom Latham

Democrats are having a difficult time recruiting a top-notch candidate to run against Congressman Tom Latham and his $300,750.00 haul in the first quarter of 2013 isn’t going to make life any easier for them.  Of the $300,000 Latham raised, $279,000 of it came from PACs.  While Latham looks like a lock to hold his seat, he is occupying a new district, which means he needs to be prepared to defend his new turf.  Latham’s close relationship with Speaker of the House John Boehner also doesn’t hurt his ability to rake in the PAC money.

Many were disappointed when Latham announced that he would not seek the open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa because they believed him to be the Republicans’ best candidate.  His fundraising ability, especially in Washington, is probably unmatched.  His April quarterly report shows just that.

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Congressman Loebsack raised $104,222.13 in the quarter, $66,250.00 of which came from PACs.  Loebsack is a far more formidable candidate than Republicans give him credit for being, but his weakness has always been lack-luster fundraising ability.  If Loebsack didn’t have access to PAC money he’s be in a world of hurt.  The best scenario for Republicans is to settle on a candidate early and start raising money early.

Pat Murphy – 1st Congressional District

Murphy raised $68,070.00 for his campaign, but over $7500 of that came from his own pocket. has already done an analysis of his fundraising report, which at best is so-so.  As a former Speaker of the Iowa House, one would have thought Murphy would have more connections and a stronger fundraising network.  While Democrat activists want another candidate to emerge, what Murphy has that makes him nearly impossible to beat in a Democrat primary is the backing of organized labor.  So, it’s not like his time in the speaker’s chair was all for naught.

Steve Rathje – 1st Congressional District

Rathje raised $51,515 for his campaign in the first quarter of the year, but it doesn’t appear as if he is filing electronically, which I believe all House candidates are required to do.  Considering that Rathje is a perennial candidate and not a former Speaker of the Iowa House, his number doesn’t look too bad compared to Mr. Murphy’s.

Rod Blum – 1st Congressional District

Since Blum announced his campaign after April 1st, he was not required to file a report with the Federal Election Commission.

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Examining the Republican Field of U.S. Senate Candidate

Iowa Republicans and the national media alike are antsy for a Republican to declare his or her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.  Their curiosity is understandable, but the reality of situation is that the only dynamic that changed when Congressman Tom Latham took himself out of consideration is that a very good candidate is taking a pass at the opportunity to run for the seat that is currently occupied by Sen. Tom Harkin.  Things are really no different on the Democrat side either.  Congressman Bruce Braley has officially jumped into the race, but the Democrats’ best candidate, Tom Vilsack, took a pass.

As has been the case since Senator Tom Harkin announced his decision to retire upon completion of his fifth term, Congressman Steve King holds all the cards in the Republican process since he would be incredibly difficult to beat in a contested primary.  Early polls have showed King with a substantial lead over any other Republican opponent should there be a contested primary.  The main question that remains unresolved is whether King will actually seek the seat.

While it’s understandable that many want an actual candidate to emerge, prolonging the start of the race might be an advantage for Republicans.  Individuals are only allowed to contribute a maximum amount of $10,400 for the entire race -$5,200 for a primary, and $5,200 for the general election.  That means the earlier a campaign starts, the more money a campaign is going to burn through by paying consultants, staff, and other expenses.

Congressman Braley is already racking up those expenses and not getting that much media attention as the only announced candidate.  There is plenty of time for the primary and general election politicking to take place even if a candidate doesn’t emerge until July or even August.  The trick is being prepared when the campaign does start.

There are three well-known Republican candidates that have expressed interest in running for the U.S. Senate – Congressman Steve King, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  Below we discuss their strengths and weaknesses.  If you have things to add please do so in the comment section.

Congressman Steve King

Positives:  Steve King’s political career started in a high school gymnasium on the same night as the 1996 presidential caucuses.  After his local State Senator addressed the crowd, King went to the front of the room and asked to speak too.  Nobody clapped when he was introduced.  It was at that moment King made it clear that he was going to primary the Republican incumbent. Like he does sometimes today, King made people uncomfortable, but he won that primary by a substantial margin, and he won the general election the following November by almost 30 points.

Six years later, an open congressional seat in the most conservative part of Iowa lured King into another primary.  Three other candidates were also enticed to run, including the Speaker of the Iowa House, a well respected conservative doctor and colleague of King’s in the State Senate, and a young ambitious businessman.   King wasn’t the favorite in his congressional primary, but on election night, he had garnered the most votes, but fell just short of the 35 percent threshold he needed to surpass to win the nomination.  He would later go on to win the nomination at a special nominating convention, and he’s been in Congress ever since.

Despite what people may say of Congressman Steve King, his work ethic and his willingness to fight for whatever it is he wants is unmatched by any other politician in Iowa.  Politics is a contact sport, and King showed in his 1996 and 2002 races that he’s willing to get in the trenches and duke it out in a primary if that’s what the situation calls for.  It is a trait that many might not recognize or even consider to be a positive attribute, but that, combined with his conservative politics, is what makes King nearly impossible to beat in a Republican primary.  That type of scrappy demeanor would also be an attribute in a grueling U.S. Senate campaign.

When you get beyond what Karl Rove or the Des Moines Register’s editorial board think of King’s politics, what you see is a dedicated public servant who works hard, travels his district, and is willing to ask the tough questions in congress.  He works as hard in congress as he does traveling his district.  Through 2012, King has seen 36 of his amendments be adopted.  That’s the third highest total in that ten-year span.  In total, King’s proposed amendments have a 52 percent success rate.  It’s a sign of his willingness to work the legislative process and shape legislation, which is a needed skill, especially in a legislative body like the U.S. Senate.

King’s 2012 re-election campaign is also a strength as he considers a run for the U.S. Senate.  While King won his re-election by eight points, the race required him to raise a substantial amount of money and to make sure that his tongue didn’t cause him any trouble.  It wasn’t always smooth sailing.  It never is for any campaign.  King won that race and is now a much more disciplined and tested candidate for it.

There are a number of other advantages for King to consider.  He’s has represented 53 of Iowa’s 99 counties since being in Congress.  He also has a huge advantage over any other Republican because every dollar in his campaign account can be transferred to a U.S. Senate campaign.  That also allows him take his time to make his decision to run since he can be soliciting contributions for his congressional account.

Negatives:  As has been well reported, King’s willingness to say what ever is on his mind at any given moment has gotten him in trouble in the past.  Maybe the best example of this is from the 2006 Republican Party of Iowa Sate Convention.  When speaking about the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi , King joked with the Republican delegates saying, “There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he’s at. And if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas.”  Thomas, a member of the White House Press Corps, didn’t take too kindly to being the subject of King’s joke.  King’s detractors were equally troubled by the joke.

There are also those who believe that King’s conservative brand of politics will hurt him in a statewide contest.  Recent polling indicates that there is some truth to that, but the most concerning factor is that a Democrat opponent will run a campaign that focuses extensively on every controversial statement King has made.  That makes King’s job of messaging or focusing the campaign on the current issues of the day more difficult.  It will also make it more difficult to introducing himself positively to those who don’t know him.  Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat who is an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate, is already attacking King on a number of issues even though King has not announced his intentions yet.

The other place King might struggle is putting together a campaign team.  There is a close knit group of King loyalists who are always involved in his campaigns, but for his 2012 re-election campaign, two members of the Branstad political team were dispatched to run his campaign.  With Governor Terry Branstad up for re-election in 2014, it seems unlikely that the people who helped him beat Christy Vilsack will be there to assist him with a U.S. Senate campaign.

There is also a transition going on in King’s congressional office to keep any eye on.  Bentley Graves, King’s current Chief of Staff, has decided to move on, which leaves a big opening in his office.  King could likely fill the position internally, but if he’s seriously considering a run at the Senate, he may want to widen his search to get someone who has experience in both the House and Senate.  This would be an asset for King personally, not necessarily for the campaign.  Still, major changes in a congressional office at the onset of a huge political campaign is never ideal.

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds

Positives: The statewide exposure that Reynolds has received from being Terry Branstad’s running mate in 2010 and the state’s Lt. Governor has been invaluable.  Now that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has removed his name from consideration, Reynolds remains as the highest ranking and most visible statewide politician contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate.

Branstad has his critics as any politician does, but he is well respected across the state.  Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Iowans believes he is doing a good job at leading the state, and that good will rubs of on Reynolds.  Besides the exposure Reynolds receives as Lt. Governor, she also gets unlimited access to the best retail politician the state has ever witnessed.  Yes, Branstad is an institution, but he also has an understanding of Iowa politics that goes unmatched.  This is a side of Branstad that you don’t see on TV or hear in speeches, but having the opportunity to seek advice and counsel from someone like Branstad is priceless.

Also in Reynolds’ favor is the mere fact that she is an engaging woman.  One would have to live in a hole not to realize that Republicans have an image problem across the country, and having a very marketable woman on the ticket for the U.S. Senate would go a long way in helping Republicans up and down the ballot perform better with female voters in Iowa.  Reynolds is mom, grandmother, a long time county elected official, a former State Senator, and now the Lt. Governor.  Her rise to prominence in Iowa politics is a success story that that media consultants would love to tell.

Negatives:  For as well as Reynolds is now known across the state, politically she is somewhat ambiguous.  Most of her public positions are aligned with Governor Branstad’s priorities and beliefs, as is the case with most running mates and elected officials in her position.

Once she becomes a candidate for the U.S. Senate, she’s going to be inundated with questions on everything from what her specific stance on abortion and gay marriage is, to whether she supports the state gas tax.  Those issues are not necessarily federal issues, but they are questions that a Republican primary electorate will expect her to answer with detail.  It is imperative that Reynolds is prepared to run the second she announces her candidacy.  She will only get one chance to make a good first impression.

While Reynolds is a current office holder, it’s not as if she was thoroughly vetted in a primary process or general election. Some outspoken conservatives have already begun to criticize her on property rights issues, social issues, and some personal issues from the past.  In January, Bob Vander Plaats of The FAMiLY Leader criticized Reynolds for never taking a public position on marriage.  Reynolds made that statement at the administration’s weekly press conference.  She did say that she does support passing a marriage amendment so that the people of Iowa could vote on the matter.  Politico also reported last week that some conservatives in Iowa viewed Reynolds as an unviable candidate for the U.S. Senate seat.

Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey

Positives: When someone from outside of the state thinks about what an Iowan is like, they probably have a vision of Bill Northey in their head.  A farmer from northwest Iowa, Northey still makes time to plant and harvest his crops.  When you see him at the Iowa Capitol or the Iowa State Fair, he doesn’t give off that politician vibe, which is a good thing.  Northey is authentic, as knowledgeable about Iowa agriculture as anyone you will find, and under-appreciated as a statewide politician.

Northey won a contested primary in 2006 and followed it up with a general election victory in a year when Republicans were killed at the ballot box.  Since being elected in 2006, Northey has improved at one of the most important skill sets in all of politics – fundraising.  The amount of money that Northey has raised isn’t going to make any jaws drops, but the fact that he goes out and knocks on donors’ doors and asks for money is something that too few Republicans who have aspirations for higher office are willing to do.  None of the money that Northey has in his state campaign account ($128,273.65) can be used for a federal race, but he has used those resources in the past to hire political staff to help his own campaign, as well as the statewide Republican effort.

As Secretary of Agriculture, Northey has traveled abroad on a number of trade missions.  That experience as a statesman lends itself to the U.S. Senate, which deals with all sorts of international policies.  Northey might not be on the top of many people’s lists as a U.S. Senate candidate, but he should not be overlooked.  He’s an excellent campaigner, has a natural rural constituently in farmers, and can talk with authority about the Iowa economy since a large percentage of business in Iowa is related to agriculture in one way or another.

Negatives:  Northey is more defined politically than Reynolds, but on some issues he is also somewhat ambiguous.  When you run for Secretary of Ag, you’re not peppered with questions about social issues, immigration, or other hot button issues.  Northey will need to be prepared to address those types of questions should he run. Like Reynolds, Northey is going to have to answer all those questions for himself.  However, since he’s been on the statewide political circuit for years, he has seen it all before and should be prepared.

Northey’s laidback style of politics worked well when running for Secretary of Agriculture, but running for the U.S. Senate is in an entirely different league since the race has national implications.  If there was one criticism of Northey’s 2006 campaign, it was that he lacked that killer instinct.  Northey won that race by only 27,000 votes, or just barely over 50 percent of the vote.  Very late in that campaign it became known that Northey’s opponent had been convicted of cruelty to animals for starving cattle to death in 1987.  Had State Representative Clel Baudler not made that incident known, Northey might not have won his race.

The Rest of the Field:

There are a number of other candidates that have expressed interest in the race, but none of them have the assets and statewide presence that the three potential candidates listed above have.  Potential candidates like Bob Vander Plaats and Matt Whitaker have run for statewide office before.  Vander Plaats is currently at the helm of a statewide organization, but he is also viewed as more controversial than King is.  State Senator Brad Zaun has expressed interest, but he was successful in his congressional primary mainly because of his strength in Polk County.  In a 12 county congressional district that’s a huge advantage, but in a statewide contest it doesn’t do that much.

If King is the candidate, Republicans will likely avoid a primary.  If he doesn’t choose to run, the field will expand.  At that point, we can delve deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of those other candidates.

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Deaces’ U.S. Senate Ultimatum

By Craig Robinson

Steve Deace, the former drive time radio host on WHO Radio who is now a nationally syndicated radio host, has told Fox News that he would consider running for the U.S. Senate in Iowa should Congressman Steve King choose not to run.

Deace told Fox News’ Steve Brown that he has been contacted by people across the country and in Iowa to run for Iowa’s open senate seat created by Sen. Tom Harkin’s decision to retire upon the completion of his term.  Deace believes that King is “uniquely qualified to unite the Rand Paul faction and the Mike Huckabee faction of the grassroots activists.”

Deace also took a jab at Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Governor Terry Branstad by saying neither have the ability to unite the party.  Deace went so far as to say anyone connected to Branstad will be unable to unite the party.  Those are tough words about someone who has never lost an election and is serving his fifth term as governor, especially since they come from someone who has only ever run for a county party chair position and lost.  It’s also interesting to note that Branstad was intimately involved with King’s 2012 re-election campaign, and he nominated Reynolds for Lt. Governor in 2010.

Reynolds, who told reporters on Thursday that she’s seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate, plans to discuss the race with King when she returns from her trade mission to Vietnam and the Phillippines.  Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey also said that he was giving a U.S. Senate campaign a serious look.

There are a number of things that are interesting regarding Deace’s “King or else” pledge to run for the U.S. Senate.  First, Deace has never been a fan of King’s despite King being the conservative standard bearer in the state.  Deace has been vocal in his belief that King should do more in regards to leading the conservative movement in Iowa, and he publicly criticized King following the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision that opened the door to gay marriage in the state.

Following the Court’s decision, King had encouraged Republican lawmakers to pass a residency requirement for marriage licenses.  The thinking was that this would keep the number of gay marriages in Iowa down because only Iowa couples would be qualified to be married.  It was also thought that it would help make sure that gay marriage wouldn’t be exported to other states in instances where gay couples that got married in Iowa may seek a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

Deace wanted nothing to do with a law that would regulate gay marriage, and he repeatedly attacked King for this proposal.  At one point, Deace and some of his regular guests went so far as to suggest that someone should primary King because King was refusing to stand up to the Court by wanting to pass a residency requirement.

The timing of Deace’s pledge to run for the Senate is also interesting.  Deace used his “announcement” to attack Kim Reynolds, who he and some others feel is an unacceptable option, while Reynolds is out of the country and unable to defend herself.  His “announcement” also comes just days before the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.  Media attention is good for Deace’s business, and being a possible U.S. Senate candidate makes him a whole lot more interesting.

Deace has been able to get Fox News and Politico to help spread his threat to run for the U.S. Senate, but neither publication thought to ponder the question of whether or not he has the ability to run.  Can he be a thorn in the side of a candidate like Reynolds? Of course, but a serious threat for the Republican nomination he is not.

It is also interesting that he seems fixated on uniting the Huckabee and Ron Paul factions in the primary.  These are two groups who have opposed one another in caucus situations.  However, the nomination for the Senate will be played out in a primary, not a caucus.  Deace should know the difference after seeing the candidate he supported, Bob Vander Plaats, go down in defeat to Terry Branstad in the 2010 gubernatorial primary.  The primary electorate in Iowa is much different that the caucus electorate.

Despite everything that has happened this week in regards to the U.S. Senate race, one constant remains.  For Republicans, Steve King is in the catbird seat because he is virtually unbeatable in a primary.  If he wants to run for Senate, he will likely be the nominee.  And he doesn’t need Steve Deaces’ help to accomplish that.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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Braley Wise to Announce Early but Register Poll Raises Concerns

By Craig Robinson

Congressman Bruce Braley is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them.  Braley’s decision to announce that he will run for the Senate less than two weeks after Senator Tom Harkin shocked everyone with the news that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election was a shrewd move.

How shrewd was it?  Well, Braley was able to declare his candidacy before any public primary polls of the Democratic field were published.  For one reason or another, various pollsters were quick to survey the Republican primary field, but ignored the potential Democrat field.

The first polls out of the gate were conducted by Republican leaning organizations, but the third poll, which was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat leaning firm, once again tested the Republican Primary field and a number of general election matchups, but didn’t bother testing the Democrat primary field despite a number of well known possibilities.

On Tuesday, the day the PPP Poll was released, inquired as to why the firm didn’t poll the Democratic primary.  We simply asked, “How do we know Congressman Braley is the frontrunner if we don’t know if he can beat Tom Vilsack in a primary?”  Nobody with PPP responded to our inquiry.

On Thursday night, the Des Moines Register released results from a poll that they had conducted which found that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who is currently the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, is a more appealing U.S. candidate to Iowa voters than Braley.

The Register’s Iowa Poll confirms what we had suspected all along.  While Congressman Braley has been mentioned as the Democrats’ heir apparent to Senator Harkin’s senate seat since he first was elected to Congress in 2006, there are more prominent Democrats that would make for a stronger statewide candidate.

The Register’s poll was good news for another Tom – Congressman Tom Latham.  The polls showed that besides Mr. Vilsack, Latham was the most appealing potential U.S. Senate candidate.  Many Republicans view Latham as the strongest potential candidate for the general election, but to get there, he would have to win the Republican nomination, which will not be easy to do if Republican Steve King makes a run for the senate.

The timing of the Register’s poll and Braley’s quick campaign announcement makes one wonder if Braley felt compelled to officially enter the race before the results of the Register’s poll were made public.  The main advantage for Braley getting into the race this early is that it will either eliminate a serious primary opponent like a Vilsack or clear the field altogether.

The Register seems to be begging for Tom Vilsack to run for the Senate.  While there is no doubt that Tom Vilsack is the strongest Democrat option, it’s important to realize that the Register only tested whether or not a person was an appealing candidate.  That’s quite different from asking voters whom they would vote for.

All that said, Braley being the first candidate to get in the race makes it much more difficult for a Vilsack or another candidate to primary him.  Announcing early has other advantages.  While Braley is well known in eastern Iowa, the rest of the state has not yet been introduced to him.  An early start gives him ample to time to travel the state, which is difficult for a candidate who is a current member of congress.

While Braley was wise to announce his candidacy when he did, getting in this early also has its drawbacks. The biggest obstacle Braley will have to overcome is fundraising.  Running for the U.S. Senate is costly, and unlike a gubernatorial campaign, there are limits to how much a person can contribute in the primary and general election.

Iowa candidates for governor have spent ten to twelve million dollars on their campaigns, but its much easier raising that type of money when people are not limited to giving just $2,600 for the primary, or $5,200 for the entire campaign.  By starting now, Braley will be forced to start spending money now on things like staff, consultants, and travel.  If he had a lot of money in his congressional account it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but Braley has only $50,000 cash on hand.

Braley was wise to get in early, especially considering the Register poll, but it comes with a price.  The 2014 U.S. Senate campaign is underway.  Just remember it’s a marathon not a sprint.

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