NRCC casts its vote for Gettemy in IA-02, Gibbons in IA-03

The National Republican Campaign Committee added Rob Gettemy to its list of “on the radar” candidates today. Gettemy is one of four Republicans running against Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district.

“The NRCC is committed to working with Rob Gettemy as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. “Rob is an accomplished, independent leader who will fight to create jobs and rein in government spending. I am confident that Republicans will wage a strong fight against Dave Loebsack, a loyal Democrat who has repeatedly put his partisan agenda before a healthy economy.”

They’ll have to do more than that to convince me that this D+7 district will be competitive in the fall. The real reason for putting Gettemy “on the radar” is to signal to Republican donors that he’s the guy to support in this race. It’s a slap in the face to 2008 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks, not to mention the other two Republicans running in IA-02 (Steve Rathje and Chris Reed). Gettemy joined the race last but has the most cash on hand thanks to a $100,000 loan he made to his own campaign.

If no candidate wins 35 percent in the June 8 primary, NRCC support could help Gettemy at the district convention that would decide the Republican nominee. Gettemy already has backing from many prominent Linn County Republicans.

In the NRCC’s three-tiered system for candidates in supposedly competitive races, the next step up from “on the radar” is “contender.” Jim Gibbons’ campaign announced today that the NRCC has elevated him to that level. Gibbons became an “on the radar” candidate in February. If Gibbons can meet certain benchmarks, the NRCC may later elevate him to the top “Young Gun” level, for candidates deemed to have the best chances of winning Democratic-held House seats.

Getting a pat on the back from the NRCC will help Gibbons raise money, particularly from out-of-district donors who don’t know the political terrain in Iowa’s third district. Gibbons outraised the other Republican candidates in IA-03 by a substantial margin in the first quarter, and being a “contender” will probably help him extend that financial advantage in the second quarter. The Gibbons campaign press release is not subtle:

By achieving ‘Contender’ status, Gibbons has already proven his ability to build a successful campaign structure and achieve vital fundraising goals.

Gibbons added, “This recognition shows that our campaign is ready to take down Leonard Boswell in the fall.  I am the only candidate in this race that has shown the financial heft and organization structure to compete and win in November.  I am running for Congress to bring Iowa values back to Congress,” said Jim Gibbons.

I have to laugh to see Gibbons bragging about support from Washington party leaders a week after he tried to attack incumbent Leonard Boswell for getting help from the head of the DCCC.

Many people on the ground in IA-03 expect State Senator Brad Zaun to win the Republican nomination. Zaun appears to have an early advantage in name recognition as well as a base in vote-rich Urbandale. On the other hand, Zaun has raised only a little more than $80,000 for his Congressional campaign, about $50,000 of that in the first quarter. It may not be enough for strong district-wide advertising and direct mail before the June 8 primary. A majority of Republican voters haven’t yet decided on a candidate, according to a recent poll commissioned by Zaun’s campaign.

If no candidate wins 35 percent in the primary, Zaun could be well-positioned to win the nomination at a district convention, having much more background in Republican politics. But Gibbons could point to the NRCC’s backing as an argument in his favor. Party leaders in Washington are less likely to commit resources to this district if Zaun is the candidate.

A final word on Zaun’s meager fundraising. His defenders claim that his fundraising has lagged because he was tied up in the state legislature from January through March. I’m not buying it. Zaun announced his candidacy against Boswell in early December, more than a month before the 2010 legislative session began. If Rod Roberts could raise more than $50,000 in the kickoff event for his gubernatorial campaign, Zaun should have been able to raise much more at his kickoff event in late December (before the legislative session began). Zaun is a former mayor of Urbandale, a community with much more wealth and more Republicans than the Carroll area Roberts has represented in the Iowa House. Zaun should have a large pool of major donors to tap.

Share any thoughts about Congressional races in Iowa in this thread.

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NRCC unofficially endorses Gibbons in third district primary

Yesterday the National Republican Congressional Committee gave another sign that Jim Gibbons is their man in the five-way primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district. Gibbons is among a dozen or so Republicans who have been added to the NRCC’s list of “on the radar” candidates.

The Young Guns program is designed to assist Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives achieve goals and benchmarks throughout the election cycle focused on the fundamentals of a winning campaign. By achieving ‘On the Radar’ status, Gibbons has already proven his ability to build a successful campaign structure and achieve important fundraising goals.

“The NRCC is committed to working with Jim Gibbons as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. “Jim is an accomplished, independent leader who has already built significant momentum behind his campaign. I am confident that Republicans will be successful in our effort to defeat Leonard Boswell, who is an out-of-touch politician solely focused on his party’s big-government, big-spending agenda rather than job creation.”

“On the radar” is the third tier for NRCC-backed challengers in Democratic-held districts. Republican candidates with somewhat better prospects are on the NRCC’s list of “contenders.” Republicans with the best pickup opportunities are called “young guns.” (The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a similar three-tier structure, from the top-ranked “red to blue” districts to “emerging” candidates and “races to watch.”)

Washington Republicans have indicated before that Jim Gibbons is their choice in the IA-03 primary, but yesterday was the closest thing to an official endorsement we’ve seen from the national party insiders.

For some reason, there’s no asterisk denoting an “official” NRCC endorsement on this list of candidates in the Young Guns program. But that doesn’t matter much. By singling out Gibbons as an “on the radar” candidate, the NRCC is telling major donors and out-of-state political action committees where they should put their money. That is bound to increase Gibbons’ money advantage over his rivals in the primary.

I still don’t fully understand why Republicans are so much more interested in a former wrestling coach and financial advisor than in State Senator Brad Zaun, a former mayor of a major Republican vote-producing region of Polk County. Perhaps they think Gibbons can bring over Democratic-leaning Cyclone fans. If some well-connected Republican cares to enlighten me, please post a comment in this thread or send a confidential e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

THURSDAY UPDATE: More establishment support emerges for Gibbons, as former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert will headline a fundraiser to be hosted by former Representative Greg Ganske, who represented the fourth district (including Polk County) from 1995-2003. Hastert’s influence wasn’t enough to carry his son Ethan through in the recent GOP primary for Illinois’ 14th district (Hastert’s old seat).  

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