IA-Sen news roundup: GOP heading for convention scenario?

It’s time for a new discussion thread on the campaign for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. I’ve pulled together lots of news on the declared and potential Republican candidates after the jump.

Some candidates who have expressed interest may back off before the filing deadline next March, but if most of them follow through, it’s plausible that no Republican will receive 35 percent of the vote in the June 2014 primary. That would allow statewide GOP convention delegates to select a nominee to face Democrat Bruce Braley in the general election.

Taking the candidates in alphabetical order:

Sam Clovis

Just a week after launching his Senate campaign, the college professor and former talk radio host made his first big hire:

Sam Clovis for U.S. Senate is proud to announce the hiring of RightOn Strategies to serve as his General Consultants.

RightOn Strategies is a national consulting firm cofounded by Michael Biundo, Kory Wood and Derek Dufresne.  Michael Biundo, was most recently former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s National Campaign Manager. Biundo led Santorum’s 2012 campaign to 11 state victories, including the win that started it all in Iowa. Santorum’s grassroots campaign became known here in Iowa and nationally for visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties.  After the Santorum campaign, Biundo went on to serve on Mitt Romney’s national staff as his Deputy Coalitions Director.

Sam Clovis released the following statement on RightOn Strategies,

“Coming off a great first week of my campaign, I am excited to have RightOn Strategies join my team.  Their track record of putting together strong grassroots campaigns, including the one here that visited and competed in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, is exactly the type of campaign we are going to build.  In my opinion, Mike Biundo ran an outstanding campaign for Senator Santorum, and I am excited that he and his team has agreed to bring their extensive skills and abilities to our campaign.”

Michael Biundo of RightOn Strategies released the following statement,

“We are pleased to be joining the Clovis for U.S. Senate team.  I had the honor of getting to know Sam Clovis during the 2012 campaign and I am confident that Sam has the experience, dedication and work ethic needed to be Iowa’s next U.S. Senator.  After working in Iowa for Rick Santorum campaign, I know first-hand that it takes a strong 99 county campaign to achieve victory in Iowa.  My team and I are looking forward to the working with Sam to ensure just that.”

Clovis has said he plans to use Santorum’s 2012 Iowa caucus campaign as a “template” for his own race.

I tend to agree with Craig Robinson for once–I would not write off Clovis as a potential nominee. He has strong communication skills and knows exactly what wingnuts want to hear. He is not well-known yet outside the northwest Iowa radio broadcast area, but he has connections with activists around the state thanks to his support for statewide efforts to remove Iowa Supreme Court judges.

I see strong potential for Iowa GOP establishment figures to attempt a covert “stop Clovis” campaign. More on that when I get around to Rod Roberts below.

Joni Ernst

I expect State Senator Joni Ernst to join the race sometime after June 30, the end of the second fundraising quarter. She is already working with consultants. She has an obvious niche as the only woman in the potential field; not that she would campaign on her gender, but a “history-making” statewide candidate would be good for Republicans in the general election. As the only current state lawmaker in the field, Ernst has a voting record for opponents to target, but she’s been in the minority during her whole Iowa Senate career, so she hasn’t voted for a lot of unpopular bills. Her past support for raising the gasoline tax will likely become an issue.

David Fischer

With the Ron Paul wing firmly in control of the Iowa GOP state leadership, many Iowa politics watchers have been expecting a veteran of Paul’s presidential campaign to join the Senate race. The likely suspect is not Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker, but state party Co-Chair David Fischer. He posted this announcement on his Facebook page on June 19:

I am seriously considering entering the race for United States Senate.

Just days ago a new Iowa Poll showed that only 30% of Iowans think the country is headed in the right direction, compared to 60% who think we’re on the wrong track. Sadly, I have to agree with the majority. We can do better.

Iowans today have an uneasy feeling their children and grandchildren may not enjoy the same opportunities and standard of living that previous generations could take for granted. Prices keep rising and incomes aren’t keeping up.

Our government tries to solve problems caused by too much spending and too much debt with yet more spending and more debt. They endlessly print more money, stealing the value of Americans’ money, and endangering our economy and national security.

While we’re told there’s no money for White House tours for school kids, we somehow have money to send weapons into a dangerous conflict in Syria. Americans don’t want another war.

Every week seems to bring a new reminder of how our federal government has grown far beyond its constitutional restraints. In the last few days we’ve learned that the IRS is being used as a political weapon and the government is monitoring our emails, text messages, and phone calls without probable cause.

Our political system is dysfunctional. Career politicians somehow think government is the solution to our problems, but only by reducing the size and scope of government can we hope to restore America – to give our children and grandchildren hope for more. More freedom. More genuine prosperity. More peace. I’m optimistic that with the right remedy, we can get our nation back on track.

I’ll keep you posted as I carefully consider this important decision. In the meantime, please Like this facebook page. Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @FischerForIowa.

Here’s the official bio from Fischer’s Facebook page:

Elected Co-Chairman of the Iowa GOP in 2013. Elected to State Central Committee from 2010-2012. Long-time Polk County GOP activist. Iowa Co-Chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for President and active in Steve Forbes’ campaign in 2000.


Dave was born in Cedar Rapids, graduated first in his class at Southeast Polk High School, and is a graduate of the College of Engineering at Iowa State University. He started a consulting business in 1993 and lives in rural Polk County with his wife and two children.

The Iowa .Gif-t Shop blog enjoyed a laugh at Fischer’s expense, but he has a realistic chance to win to the Senate nomination if no one receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary. The Ron Paul faction dominated the district and statewide GOP conventions of 2012.

Drew Ivers

Fischer’s path to victory depends on consolidating support from admirers of Ron Paul, but Drew Ivers, who chaired Paul’s last presidential campaign in Iowa, told Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register that he is considering the race too.

Ivers and Fischer share the same circle of political allies and very similar political philosophies.

“David is a good friend, and I wish him all the best,” Ivers told The Des Moines Register Thursday. “If it gets to the point that we would come very, very close to making a final decision, I would have to factor in his process.”

But, added Ivers, a Webster City resident who is retired from genetics research: “I don’t think it would be exclusionary.”

Ivers has served on the GOP State Central Committee for years and was chosen as state finance chair last spring. He doesn’t seem to have distinguished himself in that role.

Mark Jacobs

I haven’t heard anything from Jacobs lately other than his Des Moines Register guest editorial on education reform, but at this point I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t join the race sometime in the third quarter. A late start is not a big problem for a self-funding candidate, particularly when multiple polls have shown that the early announcers have low name recognition.

I see Jacobs as a candidate who could appeal to a lot of Republicans, especially business-oriented people and suburban moderates who favored Mitt Romney in the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Paul Lunde

The GOP’s 1992 Congressional nominee against Neal Smith wants the media to pay more attention to him. I would challenge him to give people one reason to believe he can become a factor in the Senate race. I don’t think GOP activists will be excited about the “second bill of rights” Lunde plans to offer.

Rod Roberts

For nearly two months, the former state legislator who now heads the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has floated the idea of running for Senate. Last week he spoke to Radio Iowa about the race.

Roberts said during an interview on Monday that he doesn’t want to be “impulsive” about running for the U.S. Senate and will announce his decision by the end of the summer.

“In a field of multiple candidates in a compressed timeline, you really have to think about the potential support that’s out there, the resources to put a viable campaign together,” Roberts said. “So now it’s: Can you do it in kind of a sprint to the finish line?” […]

Governor Branstad appointed Roberts to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals in early 2011, a job Roberts would have to leave if he runs for the senate.

“I do have a job I enjoy and people I enjoy working with and that weighs in my thinking, too,” Roberts said.

I can’t imagine Roberts winning a plurality of the vote in a Senate primary. He is not a powerhouse fundraiser, nor does he have a strong grassroots constituency. If he runs, I believe it would be primarily to reprise his role as a stalking horse for the establishment, only this time he’d be trying to draw social conservative votes from Sam Clovis rather than Bob Vander Plaats, as happened in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Roberts knows how to offer a bland, inoffensive message and how to pander to the GOP base. He only won about 9 percent of the vote in June 2010, but even 4-5 percent for Roberts might help keep the top candidate below 35 percent.

Matt Whitaker

The former U.S. attorney is still pushing hard on his “prosecute the IRS” message, which strikes me as very solid list-building for a Republican candidate. Earlier this month, Whitaker announced his campaign team:

Media consultant Terry Nelson of FP1 Strategies

General consultant Jeff Roe of Axiom Strategies

Pollster Chris Wilson of Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research

Digital strategist Zack Condry of The Prosper Group

Strategic consultant Craig Schoenfeld, a veteran Iowa strategist

Senior adviser Jennifer Rossman, a sixth-generation Iowan and former senior adviser to former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania

“This is a quality team with Iowa experience and national experience,” Whitaker said in a statement. “However the one thing they all have in common is a history of success. I’m excited to have top-notch professionals working for me as we run a campaign focused on getting our country back on track.”

David Young

Senator Chuck Grassley will be a “special guest” at two fundraisers for his former chief of staff–no big surprise there.

Speaking on Dave Price’s WHO-TV show June 23, Young welcomed other candidates to join the Senate race: “Come on in, the water’s warm.” He has been meeting Republicans around the state and talking up Bruce Braley’s vulnerability in the general election. That said, I don’t think it’s wise for any candidate to take questions from the media but not from audience members who came to hear him speak.

Nate Willems analyzed strengths and weaknesses in Young’s introductory campaign video here.

Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- At least one Iowan plans to try to qualify for the ballot as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate. Jay Williams of Davenport has pledged not to affiliate with any political party or seek monetary campaign contributions.

  • Me Likey

    As a mostly Dem, I like the way this GOP field is shaping up; Joni Ernst is the only candidate on this list who makes me nervous, and she might have trouble if it goes to a Convention, which looks very likely. She would give BB a run for his money in a general, IMHO.  

    Off topic somewhat – Over at TIR, Kevin Hall went off on the planned Trump appearance at TFL conference, featuring a priceless photo of the Donald. I just don’t get what they are doing at TFL with a move like this.  Makes no sense.  

    • I suspect the FAMiLY Leader

      is desperate for money.

      I think either Mark Jacobs or Joni Ernst could give Braley trouble. I wonder whether Jacobs would have any shot in a convention.  

  • Jacobs

    Jacobs is too much of a blank sheet to win the nomination.  He doesn’t strike me as a movement conservative.  I suspect his views might be similar to Dick Lugar’s or someone in that mold if he reached the U.S. Senate.  Of course I don’t think moderation typically wins primaries in the Iowa GOP.

    We have an idea of where most people stand, even Young we have a general idea.  

    Ivers/Fischer will have to decide which path they are going to take on immigration and national security matters.  Rand Paul is all over the map on these matters and it’s not about nuance.  It’s that he doesn’t want to say anything with any certainty.

    I agree that Ernst may give Braley the most trouble in a general election.  Sam Clovis is probably going to work the hardest to win the nomination presuming that he stays in.  

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