Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

Iowa Senate Primary Becomes 2016 Battleground

Iowa Senate Primary Becomes 2016 Battleground

Perry supports a candidate for Senate in Iowa. (Tom Williams/CQRoll Call File Photo)

The campaign trail in Iowa this week might look a little familiar: As Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stump around the state, former Sen. Rick Santorum’s face is plastered on the local airwaves.

The 2012 presidential primary is long gone, but a couple of the GOP’s future presidential hopefuls are using the Senate primary in the crucial nominating state to their advantage.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has backed the GOP front-runner, state Sen. Joni Ernst. Romney, who is not expected to run in 2016, has also given her his support. Meanwhile, Perry has endorsed former District Attorney Matt Whitaker. Santorum is supporting radio host Sam Clovis. A fourth candidate in the race, former energy executive Mark Jacobs, does not have any endorsements from likely presidential candidates.

The contest marks a rare opportunity for 2016 hopefuls: There hasn’t been an open-seat Senate race in the Hawkeye State in three decades. By backing a Senate candidate, presidential prospects can cement relationships with them and their staff that could be valuable next cycle — no matter if their chosen Republican wins or loses.

“The caucuses are an activist-driven process and activists put a premium on who stands with them,” said Republican radio host Steve Deace, who has endorsed Clovis.

“After all,” he added, “if you’re going to ask activists to stand with you, they’ll want to know if you stood with them.”

In Iowa, relationships from past campaigns loom large in endorsement decisions. Clovis supported Santorum; Whitaker backed Perry’s campaign; and Ernst supported Romney in both his presidential campaigns.

“Iowans appreciate loyalty,” said former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn, who called their allegiances “admirable.”

These kinds of endorsements won’t “lock up a large block of supporters” for 2016, said Republican consultant Bob Haus, who worked for Perry. But not backing the officials and activists who backed them could send a bad message to potential supporters down the line, he said.

For someone like Rubio, who does not have any favors to return from a previous campaign, the endorsement offers a chance to start building those relationships.

“It is smart politics in that it allows his team to start developing key Iowa contacts without the breathless Inside the Beltway 2016 speculation headlines that would occur if the Senator himself set foot in the state or was otherwise directly and personally interacting with key Iowa activists,” Strawn emailed.

Perry tried to tamp down that speculation at an event with Whitaker on Wednesday, telling The Associated Press that the appearance “had everything do to with Matt Whitaker,” not the makings of another presidential bid. But he used the visit to put in plenty of face time with activists and voters, first stumping with Whitaker at a manufacturing shop in Hiawatha, Iowa, and later at several events with Gov. Terry E. Branstad.

Romney made a couple stops with Ernst on Friday — his first appearance in the state since his failed presidential bid two years ago. He touted her as a “real Iowan,” the Des Moines Register reported, and a good choice for Senate, to a friendly crowd.

Both appearances drew buzz and media attention for the Senate candidates in the final days of the race.

The Iowa Republican primary is June 3. If no candidate gets over 35 percent of the vote, the nominee will be decided by convention on June 14.

The race is rated Leans Democratic by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

  • z-west

    “what were those three called again.. oops… ”

    Yep… Perry has a real chance.

    • z-west

      probably more than little ricky rubio even.

  • Nobama

    It’s actually been 4 decades since there was an open senate seat in Iowa (1974).

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE MORE THAN 2.6 MILLION OF UNEMPLOYED WORKERS HAVE BEEN WITHOUT AN EXTENSION OF BENEFITS. THE REPUBLICAN SENATE HAS FAILED THESE FAMILIES MISERABLY. WHILE BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES PLAYED “PARTY POLITICS”, MILLIONS HAVE LOSS THEIR HOMES, AND ARE HOMELESS. THE REPUBLICANS LIKE JOHN BOEHNER HAVE HELD THE EXTENSION BILL “HOSTAGE” IN THE SENATE, FOR POLITICAL LEVERAGE, AND HIS PARTY’S AGENDA. WHILE THE SENATE TOOK BREAK AFTER BREAK, FAMILIES WERE BEING FINANCIALLY DESTROYED. MANY MIGHT NEVER FULLY RECOVER. THE REPUBLICANS INTENTIONALLY DELAYED THE VOTE, SO THAT IT WOULD BECOME TOO LATE TO BE PASSED. THESE FAMILIES WILL NOT FORGET THE LACK OF COMPASSION AND OF COMMON DECENCY SHOWN TO THEM. THEY WILL RESPOND IN KIND IN THE COMING ELECTIONS WITH THEIR VOTE.

    • Ronald W. Mann

      Your caps will not change the fact that unemployment compensation is not a permanent thing. Perhaps when some of the lieberals are eliminated there will be a true push for growth and not welfare and actual jobs

  • Sam D.

    Whitaker is a former U.S. Attorney, not a former District Attorney.

    • Ronald W. Mann

      Yes but does he know what a farm is

  • http://marketsharescorp.com/ Nick10

    Joni Ernst when on her farm she bragged about castrating her hogs. Ouch! Ernst then became famous in Iowa. She knows all about how Iowa voters know about gonads. This can get you elected.

    • Evelyn William

      Perhaps when some of the lieberals are eliminated there will be a true push for growth and not welfare and actual jobs

      • nick10

        …and not actual jobs? I’m Conservative. Are Lieberals just like you?

  • http://marketsharescorp.com/ Nick10

    “Romney made a couple stops with Ernst on Friday — his first appearance in the state since his failed presidential bid two years ago.”

    Update. Six years ago 2008 Romney lost to John McCain.

  • YONATAN C

    THE 2.6 MILLION UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES HAVE BECOME THE LOSERS IN THE UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION FIASCO. BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE FAILED THESE FAMILIES MISERABLY. THEY HAVE USED THESE FAMILIES AS BARGAINING CHIPS, AND FOR POLITICAL LEVERAGE, AND HAVE HELD THE EXTENSION BILL “HOSTAGE” IN THE SENATE FOR THE PASSED FIVE MONTHS. BOTH PARTIES HAD NO INTENTION TO PASS THE BILL, BUT JUST GACE LIP SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC AND PRESS. WHILE MILLIONS OF FAMILIES HAVE LOST HOMES AND EVERYTHING, THE POLITICANS NOW CLAIM THAT IT’S TOO LATE TO PASS THE BILL, AND HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT IT. IN THE COMING ELECTIONS I HOPE THE AMERICAN PEOPKE DO NOT FORGET AND THAT THEY VOTE THESE POLITICAL PARASITES FROM OFFICE, THEY ARE NOT WORTHY TO REPRESENT US

  • George Kato

    Civilization was not magically designed, but rather advanced over thousands of years as our ancestors gradually discovered the ideas and institutions that enabled savage bands and tribes to develop into the nation states of today.

  • Alonzo Ales

    If we are to preserve liberty from the shackles of pseudo-science and centralized power, we must understand and abide by moral standards that transcend the rule of law.

  • George Kato

    Evidence of cultural evolution is visible in related alphabets, such as those of the Greeks and Russians, who trace their roots to the same language ancestor as Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit.

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