By Craig Robinson
July – Chinks in the Republican Armor
Republicans remained optimistic about their prospects in the November elections until the very end, but signs that not everything was going as planned appeared in July. Mid-year state campaign disclosures showed that Republicans in the Iowa Senate were unable to raise the significant funds needed to win a majority in the Iowa Senate. Senate Republican leaders Jerry Behn and Brad Zaun didn’t even have $100,000 combined in their campaign accounts.
Outside groups like Team Iowa PAC helped bridge the gap, but the inability and unwillingness of some Republican members of the Senate to raise the necessary funds to win the majority in the chamber was an Achilles heal to the effort to win the majority. While outside groups can raise significant money to help with senate campaigns, it’s vitally important for the current Republicans in the senate to raise funds and make the case to voters about why it’s important for Republicans to be in the majority. If a sitting member can’t make a strong case to donors for the need to be in the majority, they are not going to convince voters either.
If the poor fundraising numbers were not bad enough, a Republican senate candidate in Cedar Rapids dropped her bid for the Iowa Senate become a “senator” for the “Republic of the United States,” an alternative government. Yikes.
August – A nod to the future, Romney selects Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Mitt Romney struggled to excite Iowa Republicans since clinching the Republican nomination in the spring, but his selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan invigorated Republican activists. Ryan became a rock star over night, and his relative youth and prowess on fiscal issues made him a perfect fit for Romney.
September – Romney’s Iowa Strategy Questioned
There was optimism for Romney in Iowa, but his campaign strategy in the state left many GOP operatives scratching their heads. Romney repeatedly visited Polk County, while avoiding major portions of the state, including northeast Iowa, which is typically a battleground in presidential elections.
Why the Romney campaign repeatedly sent the candidate to Des Moines is still unknown. There might not have been anything that Romney could have done to win the state, but a more geographically diverse campaign in Iowa might have helped Republicans win control of the Iowa Senate. Visits to places like Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Mason City, and Marshalltown were requested, but never honored. Merlin Bartz lost his bid for re-election by 126 votes. Matt Reisetter lost his challenge by 681 votes. A more robust Romney campaign in that part of the state could have made the difference in down ballot races and in the battle for control of the state senate.
October – Romney Embraced
Despite the poor campaign strategy, many Iowa Republicans embraced Romney in the final months of the campaign. The high point of Romney’s campaign came after the first presidential debate, where he trounced President Obama. Finally, Republicans had found the aggressive candidate that would take it to the Obama that they were looking for. Romney failed to live up to that performance in the second and third debates, but he had provided his campaign the boost that he needed.
November – The Stench of Romney
In the fall of 2012, a reporter from the New York Times called and interviewed me about Paul Ryan’s future prospect should Romney lose the 2012 election. I told the reporter, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.’’
I went on to explain that Republicans would disassociate themselves from everything that was associated with Romney should his candidacy be unsuccessful. In many ways, my prediction has come true. Now, I don’t believe that Republicans harbor any bad feelings toward Ryan, but should he put himself out as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, his association with Mitt Romney is going to weigh him down.
As soon as the 2012 campaign was over, everything from Romney’s message, campaign schedule, media buying, and campaign database was put under the microscope and rendered insignificant by the media and Republican activists alike. Compliments about Romney and his campaign are few and far between, but as the next presidential race starts to crank up, those associated with Romney’s 2012 campaign will be forced to distance themselves from him.
December – Harkin’s Activities Scrutinized
The year is ending on an unusual note. Tom Harkin has represented Iowans in the U.S. Senate for almost thirty years, but very rarely have his activities been scrutinized. Republicans unanimously opposed the creation of the Harkin Institute at Iowa State University, not because Harkin is a Democrat, but because he is a current elected official, and having an entity under his name could create some ethical problems. The Republicans’ ethical concerns now seem well funded.
Senator Harkin refuses to answer questions about who solicited donations for his institute from a foreign corporation with legislation pending in the Senate, but the mere appearance of impropriety tarnishes not only Harkin’s name, but also Iowa State University. Harkin owes Iowans answers to the questions that are being raised by TheIowaRepublican.com and the Associated Press. In the New Year, we will continue to investigate this developing story.
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