David Young confirmed over the holiday weekend that he has resigned as Senator Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff in order to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tom Harkin. He’ll file the formal paperwork in June.
From where I’m sitting, Young takes more weaknesses than strengths into the GOP primary.
Young grew up in Van Meter (Dallas County) and is looking to buy a house there. He was educated at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake and Drake University in Des Moines. But he is barely known among Republican activists, as shown by Quinnipiac’s recent Iowa poll, and I can’t imagine the GOP rank and file being attracted to someone who has worked in the U.S. Senate for 17 years. Before serving on Grassley’s staff, Young worked for Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky.
Speaking to Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register, Young admitted his name recognition is “probably as low as it could be” but pointed to current Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as examples of politicians who were Senate staffers before being elected to the body. He also noted that Dick Clark was a Congressional staffer for John Culver before winning Iowa’s U.S. Senate race in 1972. (Clark served one term, losing to Roger Jepsen in 1978. Harkin defeated Jepsen in 1984, the last time an incumbent has lost a U.S. Senate race in Iowa.)
Political connections are the only real asset Young takes into a GOP primary. He’s already retained well-known consultant Sara Taylor Fagen, pollster Brian Tringali (who has worked for Representative Tom Latham), media buyer Kyle Roberts, and perhaps most important, advertising strategist Fred Davis. Craig Robinson noted that Davis handled advertising for Grassley’s last two re-election campaigns and “most recently served as Congressman Steve King’s ad man in his 2012 race against Christie Vilsack.”
Grassley’s commercials were the highest-quality Iowa political ads of the 2010 election cycle, in my opinion. I thought King’s television commercials last year were image-making masterpieces (see also here). So maybe Davis can spin Young into a candidate Iowa Republican primary voters will appreciate. Overcoming his background as a Washington insider could be too big a hurdle, though.
Young joins Matt Whitaker in the Republican field. Other possible candidates include State Senator Joni Ernst, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Sioux City-based college professor and talk radio host Sam Clovis, and Mark Jacobs, the former CEO of Texas-based Reliant Energy who recently returned to Iowa. Many Iowa politics watchers expect someone from the Ron Paul faction to run for Senate, perhaps Iowa GOP Finance Chair Drew Ivers rather than state party chair A.J. Spiker.
I like Ernst’s chances if the primary pits her against three or four men. On the other hand, if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote in the June 2014 primary, the nomination will be decided at a state GOP convention, where the “Liberty” candidate may have the advantage.
Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.