IA-Sen: Braley's in, plus more on Rove's power play (updated)

Representative Bruce Braley e-mailed supporters this morning to confirm that he is “setting up a committee to run for the U.S. Senate.” Excerpts from the e-mail are after the jump.

I’ve also enclosed below the latest news on Karl Rove’s effort to prevent unelectable Republican candidates from winning U.S. Senate primaries. Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace wants conservatives to try to “beat Karl Rove at his own game.”

From the Braley for Iowa e-mail of February 7:

Friend —

I want you to be the first to know.

It’s a big responsibility to represent the people of Iowa in the United States Senate, especially after Tom Harkin has shown us how for the last 30 years. But, if you are willing to help me, I’m ready to go.

That’s why today, I’m setting up a committee to run for the U.S. Senate.

Click here to let your family and friends know about the important first steps of this campaign.

Just as Sen Harkin did when he first ran, I’ll need to meet a lot of Iowans outside of my district. I’ll pledge to them, just like the people of Eastern Iowa that I will listen, work hard, and get things done for Iowa’s middle class.

It’s time to start a conversation with Iowans – about rebuilding the middle class, creating economic opportunity for everyone, and keeping America strong. I’m looking forward to the conversation and I’m looking forward to meeting with you. We will kick off the conversations with a Facebook chat in the next few weeks.

And, like today, you’ll be the first to know when those will happen.

The link goes to a Facebook page with a Braley for Iowa logo in UNI purple and white.

I don’t expect more than token opposition to Braley in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Bob Krause, the first Democrat to announce a challenge to Senator Chuck Grassley in 2009, is considering another campaign. Krause finished a distant second to Roxanne Conlin in the 2010 Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, the establishment will be working overtime to prevent Representative Steve King from becoming the GOP nominee against Braley. King told Fort Dodge radio host Michael Devine on Tuesday that there’s a “better than 50 percent” chance he’ll run for the Senate. Most of the big Iowa Republican donors would much rather see Representative Tom Latham run.

This morning Politico has more on Karl Rove’s new effort to block unelectable Republican candidates in primaries.

The Conservative Victory Project, the new spin-off from Rove’s Crossroads groups, will consist of a super PAC that discloses its donations, and POLITICO has learned it will also include a tax-exempt group that allows it to shield donors.

In essence, this is the GOP establishment’s attempt to make candidates for Republican nominations prove themselves before blowing winnable elections like Todd Akin and Christine O’Donnell, and Rove’s allies hope the combination of cash and scrutiny does the trick.

“This is a bad idea whose time has come,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a powerhouse fundraiser for Crossroads, said of the new organization, according to an email Monday to donors from Steven Law, head of the Crossroads groups and Conservative Victory Project.

Speaking to the New York Times a few days ago, Law mentioned Iowa as a state where Rove’s project will get involved:

“We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Mr. Law said. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”

In a guest opinion piece for Politico this week, Steve Deace argued that conservatives can beat Karl Rove “at his own game.”

Conservatives in Virginia took over the state convention last year and changed the way the party would nominate its gubernatorial candidate. Instead of a primary that provides a target-rich environment for Rove and his political hacks to buy a nomination, Virginia Republicans decided to determine their nominee at convention – where the people who care the most about the future of the party and the country reign supreme. That decision drove the establishment candidate out of the race altogether, and allowed emerging conservative superstar Ken Cuccinelli a clear path to the nomination.

Virginia has the right idea. For example, why should Rove and his GOP elites be allowed to pick the U.S. Senate nominee for my home state of Iowa? Congressman Steve King has served nearly every conservative cause that matters with distinction. If the conservative grassroots wants King as their nominee in next year’s election, following Virginia’s lead would almost assure that would happen. After all, who should determine who represents our values? Those in the grassroots that actually fight for them, even when it’s not popular, or Rove and his cynical Beltway bunch that really don’t have too many core worldview differences from Democrats?

Besides, I love hoisting foes with [sic] their own petard. We originally went to a primary system to avoid the smoke-filled rooms of conventions, so it would be deliciously ironic to revert back to conventions to take Boss Tweed-wannabes like Rove and the big money out of the process and restore virtue and principal [sic].

Iowa Democrats would love the opportunity to take out King in a statewide race. He probably can’t be beaten in the fourth Congressional district this decade.

UPDATE: James Hohmann reports for Politico that Steve King sent an e-mail to supporters today:

“I have not made a decision on this matter, but already Karl Rove and his army have launched a crusade against me,” King writes. […]

“They said I couldn’t win in 2012 – the entire political machine was against me – but I soundly defeated my opponent by 8 percentage points,” he writes. “So let me be clear. Nobody can bully me out of running for the U.S. Senate, not even Karl Rove and his hefty war chest.”

King concludes by asking for a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more to “help me ward off Karl Rove’s baseless attacks.”

King keeps bragging that he defeated Christie Vilsack, but he doesn’t tell you that he received fewer votes in IA-04 than Mitt Romney did. What does that tell you about his chances for winning a statewide election?

SECOND UPDATE: Todd Dorman analyzes the possible significance of Braley’s purple campaign logo.

THIRD UPDATE: King spoke to Radio Iowa on February 7.

“This is a decision for Iowans, not someone who happens to have a checkbook,” King told Radio Iowa. […]

King isn’t yet ready to officially declare himself a candidate for the Senate, however.

“It’s gotten closer each day, but I wouldn’t want to imply that the decision is made. It’s not,” King said. “It will be made by a thorough analysis of county-by-county, and all of the resources necessary to run a race of this magnitude.”

King spoke with Radio Iowa by phone late this afternoon. He was at Camden Yard in Baltimore, attending a Heritage Foundation retreat. Steve Forbes, the two-time presidential candidate, was the keynote speaker.

King can raise enough money for a statewide race, but the votes aren’t there for him across eastern Iowa or in otherwise Republican suburban areas.

FEBRUARY 9 UPDATE: Iowa Democratic Party Chair Tyler Olson and Republican Party of Iowa Chair A.J. Spiker were this weekend’s guests on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Excerpts from the discussion:

Henderson: Mr. Olson, Congressman Bruce Braley announced this past week that he is running for the United States Senate in 2014.  Is he the only candidate your party will put forward?  Or is he going to face a primary?

Olson: Well, Iowa democrats will ultimately choose who our Senate nominee will be.  Congressman Braley has been a really effective voice for Iowans in Congress, for middle class Iowans and the values that I think we all share.  He has been a champion for us there and will be a strong candidate.

Henderson: Does that — is that an endorsement from you?

Olson: No.  I’m not endorsing Congressman Braley’s run.  I think he was a great congressman and ultimately Iowa democrats will choose who that nominee will be.

Henderson: Mr. Spiker, Governor Branstad says he doesn’t want to live in D.C., he’d love to run but he doesn’t intend to do so.  Who is the best GOP candidate to run for the United States Senate?

Spiker: Yeah, the best GOP candidate to run is whoever our party selects as its nominee.  We trust the grassroots to decide who the nominee of the party is and the party will fully support whoever is chosen. […]

Obradovich: You say that Iowa republicans will decide.  But Karl Rove this week suggested that he would like to help Iowa republicans decide.  He is coming out with his organization against Steve King.  Steve King, of course, is one of the more conservative voices in the party.  Karl Rove says a candidate like that can’t win the general election.  What is your response to that?

Spiker: Well, Steve King obviously can win general elections, he has won them.  He just beat Christie Vilsack in a very competitive race in the fourth district of Iowa.  As far as Karl Rove intervening in our party’s business in Iowa it is ultimately up to Iowans and Iowans are used to politics that is really grassroots, door-to-door activity where they get to know the candidates and they decide who they believe best represents their values.  So I don’t believe Karl Rove will have the kind of influence in a state like Iowa that he might want to have.

Obradovich: Does he even make — does Karl Rove, his interference even make conservatives more determined to nominate one of their own?

Spiker: Well, I believe there’s blow back when you have out-of-state interest groups or large PACs that come in and try to influence an election.  And obviously to a lot of people Karl Rove represents part of what went wrong with Akin.  Karl Rove was one of the people who turned on Todd Akin in Missouri right away and helped end the Akin campaign.  I believe that his getting involved in this election in Iowa, it won’t go in the direction he would like it to go.

Obradovich: And Mr. Olson, one name that hasn’t been mentioned, actually two names, is Vilsack.  They have been named as being potential candidates for U.S. Senate.  Tom Vilsack, of course, Secretary of Agriculture and Christie Vilsack, who ran for Congress.  What is your feeling about whether either of them might get into the race?

Olson: Well, I have not heard from either one of them one way or another.  Iowans are going to decide who our nominee is going to be.  I have great confidence that we’re going to win that Senate seat.  We already have one great candidate in the race, others may join.  But ultimately we’re going to be successful in keeping that seat in 2014.

Obradovich: What makes you confident about keeping the seat?  We saw in 2010 an off year for the president, it was a republican year.  It very well could be a republican year again mid-term for President Obama.  What makes you so confident that democrats can hold the seat?

Olson: Well, democrats in Iowa are in an even stronger position than we were coming out of the 2008 election.  As you know there was historic turnout during the 2012 presidential election.  40,000 more Iowans voted for President Obama in 2012 than did in 2008.  And I really think 2008 was a lot about who President Obama is and was and 2012 was about his agenda, the things that he was able to accomplish in Washington and his plans going forward.  So I really think we’re in two different spots and we’re in a much stronger position today than we were even coming out of 2008.

Borg: Go ahead.

Obradovich: I was going to say, Mr. Spiker, are the republicans prepared to counter what Mr. Olson describes as a much stronger position than 2008?

Spiker: Off year elections typically the party that holds the White House loses seats in the Senate.  So we’ve got a great opportunity with an open seat in the U.S. Senate to pick it up.  Iowa is a swing state.  We’re a state that sent Harkin and Grassley to Washington.  And having it be an off year with an open seat puts us in a wonderful position.  And I know the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are committed to making sure that the republicans win the seat.

  • King may be more likely to run

    because of efforts by Rove or Branstad. Those efforts are likely to gin up the base urging King to run.

    Unless polls show Braley winning in a landslide, King has enough ego to think he can win.

    • I think he knows

      he can’t win. Look at the IA-04 numbers. He went into election day with a 50,000 voter registration advantage and only won the district by 30,000 votes. I anything, no-party voters living in IA-04 counties probably skew more conservative than no-parties living in eastern Iowa. I suppose he could delude himself into thinking that he could win statewide in a midterm year, when no-party turnout plummets. But Democratic turnout would have to be unbelievably low statewide for King to beat Braley.

      I think he is enjoying the attention right now but won’t have the guts to go for it.

  • Are we correctly assuming

     that King cannot be on two different lines of the ballots there in Iowa’s 4th District?

    • correct

      He has to run for one office or the other in the June 2014 primary. He cannot be on the ballot for both offices.

      Theoretically, if he ran for the U.S. Senate and lost the GOP primary, he could try to register for the IA-04 ballot as a third-party candidate. The deadline for that would be in August 2014. Don’t know whether he would try to do that–suppose it would depend on who wins the GOP nomination in IA-04.

  • Purple

    Whatever the significance, that shade is seriously ugly.

    • I'm not a fan either

      State Representative Marti Anderson’s yard signs last year were a more appealing shade of purple.

      • Agreed

        I agree.  I always thought Braley’s colors were purple and gold.  The purple and gold always struck me as a good fit for a UNI district even though Braley never went there.  The purple and white is a bit odd.  

        Maybe Braley trying to not offend non-UNI Panthers fans…LOL.  

        • I suspect he's trying to show

          he is non-partisan–not “blue,” purple. Agree that the UNI colors made more sense for an IA-01 candidate from the Waterloo area. Todd Dorman had the same thought.

  • Braley

    I don’t recall any House members running for the House and the U.S. Senate at the same time.  I have a feeling that although the voting record of a King successor in IA-4 would be similar, you probably wouldn’t have that member throwing themselves in front of the media at every turn.

    I’m glad Braley did this because whatever you think of Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause’s campaigns, they are intelligent people and they didn’t deserve the lurking mystery candidate looking over their shoulder.  Art Small didn’t even have a mystery candidate looking over his shoulder. I think Dems could have done better against Grassley due to the anger with the Iraq War and tax cuts in 2004 than they did in 2010.

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