News Center

June 6th, 2012

Primary Winners and Losers


The Grassley Brand

Redistricting pitted incumbents Pat Grassley and Annette Sweeney against each other.  Not only is Pat Grassley the Grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, but the district included Senator Grassley’s home turf.  Had the race between Grassley in Sweeney been waged anywhere else, Sweeney probably would have faired much, much better.

It would have been embarrassing had Pat Grassley lost the primary, but once again the Grassley brand proves to be the gold standard in Iowa politics.

Kraig Paulsen

Despite all of the noise about the primary challenges of a number of House incumbents, only one of them fell to a challenger on Tuesday night, and that was mostly of his own doing.  That means Speaker Kraig Paulsen goes into the general election with a strong slate of proven candidates.  Paulsen has to be thrilled that almost all of his incumbents are still standing after primary day.

John Archer

I think more people expected Ben Lange to be the congressional candidate who would break the 60 percent threshold in his primary, not John Archer.  Archer’s victory is especially impressive considering his opponent, Dan Dolan, pumped over $150,000 of his own money into his campaign.

Archer worked extremely hard to win the nomination in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and last night, all of his hard work paid off.  Republicans will also like having a congressional candidate who lives in Scott County on the ballot to run against Congressman Dave Loebsack, who had to move into the district to avoid a primary with Bruce Braley.

Mitt Romney

The Republican presidential nominee didn’t have a hand in any of the primaries in Iowa last night, but the Romney campaign should be very happy with the results.  With Ben Lange and John Archer winning the two eastern Iowa congressional primaries, Romney will have two hard working and energetic candidates to help turn out the Republican vote in eastern Iowa.  More importantly is that that almost all of the Republican incumbents who faced primary challenge won last night.  That is important for Romney because it limits the number of candidates on the general election ballot that might have openly opposed him.

Scott Walker

Organized labor picked a huge fight when they made the decision to try and recall Governor Scott Walker.  No matter how hard the left will try to spin the results in Wisconsin, Walker’s victory is a total repudiation of the big labor agenda and its tactics.  Labor didn’t weaken Walker by trying to recall him, they made him a stronger and more credible governor for having endured their attempt to remove him.

The failed Wisconsin recall attempt is likely the biggest political miscalculation in American history.  Not only has it made the governor they sought to remove into a national figure, but the failed recall could prevent President Obama from winning re-election.  The new voters that Republicans were able to identify and turn out in last night’s election may very well help Mitt Romney be the first Republican to carry the state in the general election since Reagan did it in 1984.


Erik Helland

Besides the two incumbents that lost their primaries to other incumbents because of redistricting, Helland is the only Republican incumbent in the House or Senate to lose to a challenger.  While the Iowa Gun Owners will take credit for Helland’s defeat, Helland’s undoing began long before Jake Highfill decided to run against him.

In the last two years, Helland has gotten divorced, been busted for drunk driving, and been accused of trying to bribe his opponent not to run against him. Worse yet, if you Google his name you get to see his mug shot.  This is not a biography that wins elections.

Iowa Gun Owners

The Iowa Gun Owners endorsed/recruited a number of candidates to challenge a handful of Republican incumbents in the Iowa House.

Kevin Wolfswinkel (HD 1) Lost to Rep. Jeff Smith
Matthew Ung (HD 6) Lost to Rep. Ron Jorgensen
Clint Fichter* (HD 22) Lost to Rep. Greg Forristall
Jane Jensen (HD 24) Lost to Rep. Cecil Dolecheck
Joan Acela (HD 25) Lost to Rep. Julian Garrett
Priscilla Marlar (HD 78) Lost to Rep. Jared Klein

The only Republican incumbent they were able to unseat was Rep. Erik Helland, and as you can see from above, it’s pretty clear that Helland beat himself.  Iowa Gun Owners did fair well in a number of open primaries, but when you make a lot of noise by challenging a bunch of incumbents, you need to do better than one for seven.

* Fitcher contacted to say that he was not recruited by the Iowa Gun Owners.

Negative Campaigning

Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination by pummeling his opponents with negative ads, but going negative didn’t help candidates in local primaries.  Pat Ward and Pat Grassley were both attacked by their opponents with negative radio ads and mailers, and both easily won their primaries.  While both Ward and Grassley were well known in the districts they were running in, it also appears that negative campaigns in local races backfired on the candidates they were intended to help.

Comeback Candidates

Two former State Senators, Larry McKibben and Jim Black, saw their comeback attempts come to a halt on primary day.  Black lost by six points, 47 percent to 53 percent, but McKibben lost badly.  McKibben, a long-time State Senator from Marshalltown and former congressional candidate lost to perennial candidate Jane Jech 41 percent to 59 percent.

Republican Majority in the Iowa Senate Prospects

Make no mistake, Republicans still have a very good chance at taking control of the Iowa Senate this fall, but their odds decreased when candidates like McKibben and Black failed to advance past the primary.  Both McKibben and Black would have been formidable general election candidates, but it’s yet to be seen if the winners of those primaries have what it takes to win in a general election.

To be clear, I’d not saying that those who won the primary can not win the general election this fall, but the ranking of those races slipped when the some of the senate’s top recruits were not able to win the primary.

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

blog comments powered by Disqus