IA-04: Nick Ryan looking for a Republican to run against Steve King

Representative Steve King is among the leading Iowa Republicans basking in reflected glory from Ted Cruz’s big win in the caucuses. His endorsement in mid-November was a catalyst for Cruz’s rise in the Iowa polls. He ran interference when Cruz came under attack for his stands on the ethanol mandate and an amendment to a 2013 immigration bill. In the final hour before the Iowa caucuses convened, King tweeted, "[Dr. Ben] Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope." (Today King expressed regret for "any miscommunications" but pointed to a CNN story asserting that Carson was planning "a break from campaigning.")

Cruz’s win after trailing in the last ten polls before the caucuses cements King’s status as a hero to many Iowa Republicans. By the same token, King has disappointed some conservatives who supported him in the past.

In particular, King’s efforts on behalf of Cruz made an enemy out of Nick Ryan, who has led various super-PACs and dark money groups. Ryan is looking for a credible candidate to challenge King in a GOP primary to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

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Iowa GOP caucus-goers deliver big hit to Terry Branstad's clout

Donald Trump was the obvious Republican loser last night. Despite leading in the last ten Iowa polls released before the caucuses, Trump finished more than 6,000 votes and three percentage points behind Ted Cruz, widely perceived before yesterday to have peaked too soon. Record-breaking turnout was supposed to be a winning scenario for Trump, yet a plurality of caucus-goers cast ballots for Cruz as attendance surpassed the previous high-water mark by more than 50 percent.

For Iowa politics watchers, another big takeaway jumped out from the caucus results: Governor Terry Branstad’s advice doesn’t carry much weight with rank and file Republicans.

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Weekend open thread: Last Des Moines Register caucus poll and a shady Ted Cruz mailer

Photo of a Ted Cruz supporter’s car spotted in Davenport on January 30; shared with the photographer’s permission.

The final Iowa caucus poll by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows a tight race on the Democratic side and Donald Trump retaking the lead from Ted Cruz among likely Republican caucus-goers. Key findings and excerpts from the Register’s write-ups on the poll are after the jump.

Ann Selzer is "the best pollster in politics," Clare Malone wrote in a must-read profile for FiveThirtyEight.com this week, which explained Selzer’s methods and "old-school rigor." One key part of her "A+" methodology is starting from a list of registered voters, rather than using random digit dialing to reach Iowans by phone. Nate Cohn pointed out that Iowa polls drawing respondents from a registered voter list have tended to produce better results for Hillary Clinton, while surveys using random digit dialing have produced the best numbers for Bernie Sanders. Selzer also uses a simpler likely voter/likely caucus-goer screen than many other pollsters.

Bleeding Heartland guest author fladem showed yesterday that the Iowa caucus results have sometimes been noticeably different from the last polls released. Front-runners have often seen their lead shrink, while fast-rising contenders have "come from nowhere." I am standing by my prediction that the structure of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, where only delegate counts matter, favors Hillary Clinton and will allow her to outperform her poll numbers on Monday night. Speaking of which, there’s still time to enter Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa caucus prediction contest; post a comment with your guesses before 6 pm central time on February 1.

Last spring I was sure Cruz would peak in Iowa too soon and crash before the caucuses. Campaign news from October through December convinced me that I was wrong, and I still believe more in Cruz’s ground game than in Trump’s. However, the Cruz campaign is starting to look desperate, shifting its advertising to attack Marco Rubio instead of Trump, and sending out a deceptive mailer, which implied that Republicans guilty of a "voting violation" could improve their "score" by showing up at the caucuses. I enclose below several links on the controversy and a statement from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate denouncing the mail piece, which "misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law."

Pate’s predecessor, Matt Schultz, is chairing Cruz’s Iowa campaign and defended the mailing as "common practice to increase voter turnout." As Gavin Aronsen discussed at the new website Iowa Informer, it’s rich for onetime "voter fraud" crusader Schultz to be "actively defending a purposefully misleading mailer." The hypocrisy confirms my view that Schultz and Cruz are a political match made in heaven.

Governor Terry Branstad will introduce Chris Christie at a campaign stop today but won’t officially endorse the New Jersey governor. Several people with close ties to Branstad are active supporters of Christie, who has been stuck at 3 percent in the Register’s polling for months.

Final note: I’m so happy for all the volunteers who are able to knock doors in near-perfect (for January) weather during these last few days of the campaign. Weather conditions leading up to the 2008 caucuses were terrible.

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Thoughts on the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses

Expanded from a short take for CNN

The seventh Republican presidential debate and the first without Donald Trump produced more substantive talk about issues and some strong performances by candidates near the bottom of the pack. For political junkies who missed the debate for whatever reason, the New York Times posted the full transcript here. My thoughts are after the jump.

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Grassley introduces Trump at rally: "We have an opportunity once again to make America great again"

How much do Ted Cruz’s fellow U.S. Senate Republicans not want him to be their party’s standard-bearer? So much that Senator Chuck Grassley introduced Donald Trump at a rally in Pella this afternoon, telling the crowd, "We have an opportunity once again to make America great again."

Technically, Grassley didn’t endorse Trump for president, and aides for the senator told Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register that Grassley "will introduce Marco Rubio at the candidate’s Iowa rally next Saturday." Still, it sends a strong message when a politician of Grassley’s stature echoes Trump’s campaign slogan at a rally for Trump. Anna Palmer reported for Politico from Pella,

“I’m excited to be invited to be here. I’m excited as I see so many large crowd at various events around Iowa,” Grassley said. “I’m excited to see the big crowds because of the big energy that comes with it and we’ve got to keep up this energy that’s shown here today and many other places around Iowa because that is what is going to take for us to win back the White House in November.”

Grassley endorsed his Senate colleague Bob Dole before the 1988 and 1996 Iowa caucuses and supported the establishment’s choice George W. Bush before the 2000 caucuses, but he didn’t pick a candidate out of the crowded GOP fields in 2008 or 2012. On January 11, Grassley told Alex Schuman,

“I’ve told all these candidates as long as eight months ago that I wasn’t going to get involved,” he said Monday. “I’ve told them I wasn’t going to back anybody. I think I’m a person who has a great deal of credibility. My word is good.”

Sen. Grassley continued, “I think it would hurt my credibility if I were to step out for that person or any other person right now.”

Speaking to Politico’s Burgess Everett on January 20, Grassley criticized Cruz’s stand on various energy issues and said he respected Governor Terry Branstad’s call the previous day for Iowans to defeat the Texas senator. But Grassley added that he "won’t get political about it" and campaign against Cruz. I wonder what changed his mind over the past few days. My hunch is that some internal polling is showing Cruz way ahead of others in the field. Although Trump is occupying an outsider niche in this presidential race, it could hardly be more clear that Cruz is the candidate most widely hated by the Republican establishment.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: On second thought, leave Grassley out of the "anyone but Cruz" establishment crowd. Shortly after the Trump event, Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register, "Several other campaigns – including those of candidates Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Rand Paul – confirmed they had received offers in recent days to appear with Grassley." On Saturday evening, the Cruz campaign told Teddy Schleifer that Grassley will appear at a Cruz rally on January 29. So the senior senator appears to be making himself available to all the presidential candidates during the final days of the caucus race.

P.S.- Senator Grassley’s grandson, State Representative Pat Grassley, has not endorsed a presidential candidate this cycle. Grassley is the new Iowa House Appropriations Committee chair and widely considered a likely candidate for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2018, assuming the current holder of that office, Bill Northey, runs for governor.

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Memo to journalists: Craig Robinson's firm makes money off the Iowa caucus campaign

Craig Robinson is among the go-to Republicans for national press covering the Iowa caucuses. His insights are partly informed by a wealth of experience: as a staffer on Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign before the 2000 caucuses, as political director of the state GOP during the year before the 2008 caucuses, and as publisher of The Iowa Republican blog since 2009.

One salient fact rarely, if ever, makes it into the news stories quoting Robinson about prospects for Republican contenders in Iowa: his company Global Intermediate has been paid to do direct mail for or against certain candidates in the field.

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