Can Mark Jacobs represent the wind in the U.S. Senate?
It’s eye-rolling, this posturing and re-posturing of Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Jacobs.
Faced with news that he gave money to a Democrat — former U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey ($1,000) — Jacobs said he just did that because Corzine was CEO of Goldman Sachs, where Jacobs worked.
I doubt a “Goldman Sachs” defense will play well out in rural Iowa for Jacobs, a retired Texas energy executive who only recently moved back to the Hawkeye State (where he hasn’t spent an adult working year of his life).
In fact, Jacobs could start his own TV show, “Major Makeover,” which could chronicle his efforts to recast himself as an Iowan and a Republican. Jacobs, according to some great reporting from The Des Moines Register, also gave money to party switcher Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who finished his career in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.
Perhaps, thinking of Jacobs and his potential contributions, our government could add two U.S. senators who don’t serve any single state, but just represent the wind — because that’s where Jacobs is most at home, opportunistically riding along with the blowing currents of the day for his own advancement.
Campaign materials make Jacobs sound more like an outside consultant for Iowa, someone the Republican Party of Iowa needs to bring in to do the job because they have no one in “the company” with the expertise who can do it, or more to the point, who wants to do it.
Another potentially strong GOP candidate is out of the running to challenge Waterloo Democrat Bruce Braley for the Senate.
Carroll Republican Rod Roberts, a high-profile Iowa conservative who built the exploratory infrastructure to run for the U.S. Senate, said he won’t enter the race to succeed Tom Harkin.
“In the end, it’s what you think you should do in terms of family,” Roberts, a former state legislator, said.
In an interview, Roberts, 56, said the timing is not right to run an intense campaign with national interest. While the candidate is the “point person” the full family must be involved, he said.
Roberts, who sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 that Terry Branstad earned, is the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. He plans to continue in that role.
“I enjoy what I do,” Roberts said.
Roberts also ruled out runs for secretary of state and Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District seat in 2014.
There is still one possibility for Roberts to emerge this summer as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
If none of the six GOP candidates currently in the race reach the 35 percent threshold at the polls in the June 3 primary, the decision will go to a state Republican convention. In that situation a candidate from outside the field — say Roberts, or Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds — could be selected.
Branstad has told The Jefferson Herald he thinks such a wildcard route is unlikely — an assessment with which Roberts quickly agreed.
“That’s conventional thinking and accurate,” Roberts said.
But were he nominated at convention Roberts said he would have to reconsider his decision on the race.
“I never say ‘never’ down the road,” Roberts said.
Bob Vander Plaats announced over the weekend that he is not running. A batting order of top Republicans now have passed on what is the opportunity of a political lifetime. Ambition is something of an endangered species in the higher reaches of Iowa Republican life.
The Republican U.S. Senate field now includes state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak, radio-talk personality Sam Clovis of Sioux City, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Clive, Ames author and attorney Paul Lunde, Jacobs of West Des Moines, the retired CEO of Texas-based Reliant Energy, and Ames car salesman Scott Schaben.
With a more settled lineup, and accepting Branstad’s analysis of the nomination process, it’s time to look for separation among the Republicans.
Whitaker appears best positioned to do this. As a former Iowa Hawkeye football player he has strong name recognition. His roots in Iowa are undeniable. And he has the potential to build something of a bridge, temporary and expedient and flimsy as it may be, between warring factions of his party.
An effective strategy for Whitaker would be to run as the candidate of small government, train his rhetorical fire in that direction, and limit his exposure on the social front where his views are known and on the record already. Stating unequivocally and with stage-craft confidence that you are “pro-life and pro-Second Amendment” and you don’t negotiate on it, so what else is there to say, revs up the base and doesn’t give your opponents and the media stray comments that can be noosed around your political neck.
Whitaker, while certainly flawed in many ways, is the more reliable vehicle of the six in play to run a campaign with President Obama as the real opponent.
All of that said, Braley has an overwhelming advantage.