IA-Sen: News roundup on the Republican field

Time to catch up on news about the many Republicans running for or thinking about running for Senator Tom Harkin’s seat next year. Links about most of the contenders are after the jump.

Any comments about the IA-Sen race are welcome in this thread.

One Republican who had been flirting with a possible Senate bid ruled it out this week. From a message Iowa GOP Co-Chair David Fischer posted on Facebook December 7:

After much consideration, I have told my family that I do not intend to be a candidate for United States Senate in 2014. While I had the support of my wife and young children if I wanted to enter the race, I believe the time away from home required for Dad to run a statewide campaign is simply not the best thing for my family at this time.  […]

Rest assured I’m not going away and I will continue to share news and my perspective on the issues of the day. For now I will remain in my role as Co-Chairman of the Iowa GOP and I will continue to explore new opportunities to share my commitment to spreading the message of Freedom and genuine prosperity.

Having watched Fischer’s Facebook feed over the last few months, I’m surprised he is passing on the Senate race. I didn’t think he could win a primary outright, but I felt he had as good a chance as anyone in a convention scenario if no candidate won at least 35 percent in the primary. I wonder whether someone else from the “Liberty” wing of Ron Paul admirers will run for the Senate. Earlier this year, Drew Ivers said he was thinking about it.

Two men who ran for governor in 2010 are still openly considering the Senate race. Former State Representative Rod Roberts, who is now director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, began talking about the Senate race in the spring. He has been attending GOP events around the state these past few months. Earlier this year, Roberts said he would decide whether to run for Senate by the holidays. He recently told his biggest fan, Carroll-based journalist Doug Burns, that he’s still thinking about it. No matter how many times Burns explains why Roberts is supposedly the ideal Republican statewide candidate, I just can’t see it. During the 2010 campaign for governor, Roberts was useful for Terry Branstad’s campaign as a way to keep social conservatives from uniting behind Bob Vander Plaats in the GOP primary. But Roberts never had much of a statewide constituency, and no one needs him as a stalking horse now, since there is no dominant Vander Plaats-type figure in the Senate race.

Or is there? A spokesperson for Vander Plaats told Buzzfeed in September that the three-time candidate for governor and scourge of Iowa Supreme Court justices may run for Senate. Last week, Vander Plaats spoke to Mike Glover.

In an interview, Vander Plaats said he’s been approached by many people urging him to consider a run in the primary and will make a final decision by Feb. 15. […]

“I’m going to give some serious consideration to the race,” Vander Plaats said. “It’s something I’ll give strong consideration to.”

Vander Plaaats said he’s seen polls showing he could be a strong candidate and is encouraged by those findings, and some argued he would be a very serious candidate, “He’s got a lot of name recognition and that could make him [a] frontrunner,” said long-time GOP activists Steve Scheffler. “I think it’s looking like a pretty good year.” […]

“I think Braley is very vulnerable,” said Vander Plaats. “I think being an incumbent in Washington D.C. is a liability right now.”

Vander Plaats said he would look forward to that campaign.

“It would be a campaign of stark contrasts,” said Vander Plaats. “I think it’s a campaign we could win.”

Weak fundraising by most of the declared Republican Senate candidates gives Vander Plaats some leeway to make up his mind late. The filing deadline for major-party candidates is March 14, 2014.

Running against this loser would be a dream scenario for Braley, but let’s hope the public face of the FAMiLY Leader doesn’t realize that. A November poll by WomanTrend for the Citizens United Political Victory Fund (a conservative PAC) found that Vander Plaats was far better known among Iowa Republicans than any of the declared Senate candidates. On the strength of that name recognition, the poll found that Vander Plaats would enter a GOP primary race with 28 percent support. All other candidates were in the single digits, and 39 percent were undecided.

The desperation of Republicans who want to beat Braley is palpable in this commentary by Kevin Hall:

The question is whether or not 28 percent is Vander Plaats’ ceiling or his starting point. Most Iowans have already formed their opinion of him. Even among Republicans, there are a significant number of voters who strongly dislike BVP.

The bigger issue for Bob Vander Plaats would be his viability in the general election. Along with being extremely well known, BVP is perhaps the most polarizing political figure in the state. His negatives in a statewide poll of Iowans are likely to be extremely high.

How well he would fare against Bruce Braley should be something Vander Plaats examines very closely before deciding to enter this race. The polls show that other, lesser-known Republicans could be very competitive with Braley. The same might not be true for BVP.

Hall was speaking of another recent conservative poll, which showed all of the declared Senate candidates within striking distance of Braley.

The person most threatened by a Vander Plaats candidacy would be Sam Clovis. Like Vander Plaats, he is a prominent social conservative and endorsed Rick Santorum in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Clovis is a strong communicator and has been putting together a grassroots organization but hasn’t managed to raise a lot of money. Vander Plaats raised nearly a million dollars for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and could probably suck the wind right out of Clovis’ efforts.

This week, Clovis announced that his campaign has collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot next year. He’s been winning straw polls at Republican events, training volunteers and lining up supporters. As of last week, 400 county co-captains had committed to help Clovis win the primary. He is staking out positions that will be popular with the conservative base, not only on social issues. Here’s his take on the federal budget deal Congressional leaders announced yesterday.

“Caving by allowing the automatic sequester spending cuts to be reduced in this budget deal is sending our country in the wrong direction,” said Sam Clovis. The structure of the deal may avoid a pending government shutdown but it does nothing to deal with our ever-increasing debt. “This ‘budget compromise’ raises taxes, does not curb spending, nor does it help our overall economy,” stated Clovis. “This is a horrible deal, and as usual, the politicians in Washington do not seem to be connected to the real world.”

State Senator Joni Ernst has been appearing at conservative events around the state, but often doesn’t impress the audience as much as Clovis does. She also less likely than Clovis to comment on current affairs through social media, although Ernst did release a statement criticizing the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic breakthrough with Iran.

Ernst has quite a lot of support from the GOP establishment, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, at least eight Iowa House Republicans (Clel Baudler, Mark Brandenburg, Cecil Dolecheck, Mark Costello, Dean Fisher, Megan Hess, Rob Bacon, and Rob Taylor), five Iowa Senate Republicans (David Johnson, Nancy Boettger, Tim Kapucian, Amy Sinclair, Hubert Houser), former State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck, and former State Representatives Renee Schulte and Rich Anderson. The fourth-quarter financial reports will say a lot about whether Ernst can translate that support into the kind of money she’ll need to run an aggressive statewide campaign before the primary. Ernst also needs to learn to sound less robotic when she speaks at a forum or debate alongside other candidates.

Ernst’s main rival for Republican establishment backing, Mark Jacobs, has a radio commercial in heavy rotation; I’ve heard it many times on Des Moines-based stations. Click here to read the script or listen to the audio of the Jacobs spot. The candidate was the guest on Dave Price’s WHO-TV program last Sunday, and I thought he came across as polished without sounding like he was repeating a memorized script. Unfortunately for him, he had an awkward moment after Price asked how best to communicate with women. Jacobs responded, “You have to connect with women on an emotional level,” adding that he is well-positioned to do so, thanks to time spent with his wife and teenage daughters.

Research on persuasion suggests that candidates do better when they engage with any voters (not just women) on an emotional level. Democrats and progressive bloggers were quick to pounce on Jacobs’ depiction of women as more swayed than men by non-rational concerns. The Iowa Democratic Party gleefully passed along many links in a press release of December 11:

ROUNDUP: GOP Senate Candidate Mark Jacobs’ Patronizing Comments about Women Make National Headlines

All While GOP is Still Losing on Women’s Issues

Des Moines – GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs made national headlines this week after making a patronizing and offensive remark on WHO-TV’s The Insiders, arguing that the best way to connect with women voters is by talking to them on an “emotional level.”

One wonders if Jacobs was able to attend the GOP’s “intensive candidate training program” on how to talk to and about women.

The truth is that the GOP’s out-of-touch and extreme policies of the past are the real problem.  From opposing equal pay, to pledging to defund Planned Parenthood and proposing bans on health care decisions, Republicans across the board refuse to support the policies important to women and their families.

See below a roundup of Jacobs’ coverage:

Mark Jacobs, Iowa GOP Senate Candidate: The Way To Talk To Women Is On An ‘Emotional Level’

Huffington Post // Amanda Terkel

As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions. In an interview Sunday with WHO-TV in Des Moines, host Dave Price asked Jacobs what the “biggest difference between men and women” is, in terms of reaching out to them as voters.

Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs: Women want to be spoken to “on an emotional level”

Salon // Elias Isquith

If Iowa Senate candidate Mark Jacobs is anything to judge by, the Republican Party’s attempt to train its members on how to better communicate with women is going … not so well.

GOP Senate Candidate: Best Way To Connect With Women Is On ‘Emotional Level’

Talking Points Memo // Daniel Strauss

Iowa Republican Senate candidate Mark Jacobs said the best way to connect with women is on an “emotional level.” Jacobs made the comments during an interview with Iowa’s WHO-TV in Des Moines on Sunday.

Teaching Republicans how to talk to women

Washington Post // Kathleen Parker

As Republican leaders recently began tutoring their male candidates on “How to Talk to a Lady” (my title), it was tempting to imagine what wisdom was being imparted. A few ideas: “You have to connect with women on an emotional level,” said Mark Jacobs, a Republican Senate candidate from Iowa, when a television interviewer asked him what the biggest difference is between men and women. “And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I’ve had a lot of coaching on that,” Jacobs continued. There you go!

More tutoring may be required

MNSBC // Steve Benen

Just last week, Politico reported that that Republican officials are making a real effort to “teach” candidates how to talk to (and about) women. “Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn,” one Republican staffer said. As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions.

GOP Senate candidate: Women have to be talked to on an ’emotional level’

The Raw Story // David Edwards

A Republican candidate for Senate from Iowa says he’s had lessons communicating with women and has learned that they need to be talked to on an “emotional level.”  Last week, staffers for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Politico that Republican candidates were being tutored on how to speak to female voters in response to the so-called GOP “War on Women.”

I’ll bet Jacobs wishes he could have a do-over on this one. I don’t believe any “gaffe” is decisive six months before the primary and eleven months before the general election, but this experience could make Jacobs more nervous and hesitant the next time he has to answer an unexpected question in public.

This month is crunch time for Matt Whitaker and David Young, the first two Republicans to declare their Senate candidacies. Both turned in disappointing third-quarter fundraising numbers and will face pressure to show they have a reason to stay in this race. Last time I checked, David Young’s campaign website, Young for Iowa, did not appear to be online, but he is still campaigning and attending Republican events around the state, as is Whitaker.

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