Unlike the 2008 race, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley says he will endorse a candidate in the 2012 presidential primary. Earlier this week, Grassley told Roll Call that he will pick the candidate that he believes will make the best president, but who also has the resources to win beyond the Iowa Caucus. This is an endorsement that could carry some weight and candidates will be jockeying to win the favor of Iowa’s longtime senator.
Since Grassley remained neutral in 2008, the most prized endorsement among Iowa’s Republican politicians came from Congressman Steve King. Very late in the race, he lent his full support to Senator Fred Thompson. It was not enough to catapult Thompson into a top two finish, but there is no doubt King helped the campaign. He reinvigorated a lackluster candidate who likely would not have finished in third place without Congressman King’s help.
King’s endorsement went far beyond just saying, “I support Fred Thompson”. He put the full weight of his political power into the campaign. That is where the true power lies in any endorsement. It is much more than words. King’s key supporters jumped on board. He made phone calls to GOP central committee leaders and top political activists, encouraging them to get behind Thompson. Some political heavyweights who were earlier in the Huckabee, Romney, and Tancredo camps decided to switch to Thompson, based largely on the deep respect they hold for Congressman King. He even travelled to South Carolina and spent several days there helping Thompson’s efforts in that state’s primary.
Steve King believes he could have made a greater impact if he had endorsed earlier. The 5th District Congressman vows to jump into the fray much sooner this time around. His help will provide one lucky candidate with a huge boost, especially in conservative rich western Iowa.
If Grassley throws the full weight of his political machine behind the presidential candidate he endorses, that could also make quite an impact. Grassley is deeply respected by many Republican activists. He has longtime grassroots supporters who have years of experience helping campaigns.
There are four key Iowa politicians, with four different constituencies, whose endorsements could impact the 2012 Iowa Caucus: Senator Grassley, Governor Branstad, Congressman King, and Bob Vander Plaats. Next week, we will break down what each endorsement will mean, and which potential candidates are likely to receive their backing.
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