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November 22nd, 2013

Are You Iowan Enough? – The Friday Round Up

It’s been a while since I penned this column.  A vacation, followed by a lot of late-week visits by potential 2016 presidential candidates, moved this column to the back burner.  Needless to say, there are a number of events and happenings that got passed up, but I’ll try my best to make it up to you in the coming weeks.

Who is Iowan enough to run for the U.S. Senate?

I was surprised that State Senator Joni Ernst aggressively went after Mark Jacobs for not being Iowan enough to run for the United States senate.  The Ernst campaign sent two separate press releases that basically called Jacobs a carpetbagger.

On the eve of Jacobs’ entrance into the race, the campaign made the following statement:

“We welcome Mark Jacobs to the Republican Party, to Iowa and now the race for United States Senate. While his announcement may cause a bit of noise, it changes very little about the race. As a mother, a soldier and a proven conservative, Joni Ernst remains the candidate best able to defeat Bruce Braley and bring Iowa values to Washington. That was true before Mark Jacobs moved to Iowa to run for senate, and it’s still true today.”

The next day, the Ernst campaign sent this statement by Dallas County Recorder and Ernst endorser, Chad Airhart:

“For the last three decades, Mark Jacobs has lived in places like New York, New Jersey and Texas[,] and now, within months of moving to Iowa, he has become a candidate for statewide office campaigning on manufactured ‘Iowa Values.’  In stark contrast, my choice for senate, Joni Ernst, grew up in Montgomery County walking beans and feeding hogs – the very same county she today represents in the Iowa state senate.  Joni Ernst is exactly the candidate our party should unite behind – a mother, a soldier and a proven conservative who lives our shared Iowa values each and every day and has a proven record of defending them in her community, in the statehouse, and as a Lt. Colonel with over 20 years of service to her nation.”

I’m all for aggressive campaigning, but I think Jacobs residency is an odd place to begin critiquing him.

There are a number of reasons why people leave the state after high school or college.  It happens all of the time, and for decades, lawmakers and political candidates have talked about how to end the state’s brain drain.  Jacobs, like a number of young Iowans, left Iowa in search of a career.  In the middle of the farm crisis of the 1980’s, I imagine that happened quite often.  Even Ernst herself left Iowa after college.  For most of the 1990’s she lived in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida as her husband was stationed at different military bases.  When it came time for Ernst and her husband to settle down and raise their family, they chose to return to Iowa.  And good for them!

Is that really all that different for Jacobs’ story?  After retiring as the CEO of a Houston-based energy company, Jacobs chose to come back to Iowa.  Again, this is a decision that should be celebrated, not condemned.  There are plenty of Iowa parents who would love to see their kids return to Iowa someday to raise the next generation of family and give back to their communities.

Airhart states, “For the last three decades, Mark Jacobs has lived in places like New York, New Jersey and Texas and now, within months of moving to Iowa, he has become a candidate for statewide office campaigning on manufactured ‘Iowa Values.’”   First of all, Jacobs moved back to Iowa before U.S. Senator Tom Harkin announced his retirement plans.  So the notion that Jacobs only moved back to Iowa to run for the U.S. Senate is ridiculous.  Second, Ernst herself ran for political office shortly after returning home to Iowa.  Again, what’s the big deal?  And is this all that different from Ernst’s own story?

This isn’t the first time someone has made an issue of a Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s Iowa credentials.  The Iowa Democratic Party went after David Young pretty hard, too.  Young, Sen. Chuck Grassely’s former Chief-of-Staff, has lived in Washington D.C. for years, and only last September purchased a home in Iowa.  In fact, he’s still registered to vote at his parents’ home address.

If Ernst has a problem with Jacobs, then she clearly doesn’t think Young is Iowan enough to run for the U.S. Senate.  In fact, every credible Republican in the primary has either moved to or moved back to Iowa.  Sam Clovis, a native of Kansas, came to Iowa for a teaching job.  Matt Whitaker spent time as a corporate attorney for a Minnesota-based grocery store chain before moving back to Iowa in the early 2000’s, after which he also quickly ran for political office.

If Ernst wants to be the all-Iowa candidate in the race, perhaps her campaign should bank at one of our local banks instead of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, Virginia.  Maybe instead of hiring a Boston-based political operative to be her campaign treasurer, she could employ an Iowan or utilize an Iowa accounting firm to service her campaign.  Even Ernst’s campaign manager banks in Washington D.C. according to the contribution he made to her campaign.

I just don’t get it.  Don’t we want Iowa to grow?  Don’t we want Iowans who have left the state to pursue other opportunities to return someday and contribute to our communities?

I’ve already mentioned the fact that Iowa has a history of exporting its most precious commodity, our educated youth, but that’s not all we export.  Iowa also exports wealth to states like Florida and Arizona because of our tax climate.  Many of Iowa’s wealthiest people eventually leave or become part time residents of Iowa for tax purposes.  Jacobs’ could have retired anywhere, but he chose to come back home.

I don’t know about you, but as the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, Florida and Arizona seem like attractive options, but obviously Jacobs isn’t ready to relax in the sun yet.  And win or lose, that’s a good thing.  Bruce Braley has lived in this state for more consecutive years than all the Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate.  I think we all can agree that doesn’t make him the most qualified candidate.

Quick Hits 

  1. Congressman Paul Ryan’s speech at Governor Branstad’s Birthday Bash was flat and uninspiring.  It felt like I was being forced to watch re-runs of the 2012 presidential campaign.  He just doesn’t have “it.”
  2. The most interesting thing at Branstad’s birthday bash was the effort to get attendees to participate in the caucus-to-convention process.  This is smart and is also very telling regarding the dynamics between the Governor and Republican Party of Iowa leadership.
  3. Paul Ryan snubbed Congressman Steve King not once, but twice by not even mentioning King during his remarks at Branstad’s event.  Ryan acknowledged every other Republican office holder.  If you can’t even bring yourself to acknowledge King, it’s obvious to me that you have no interest in running for president.
  4. Perhaps the Ernst campaign should find someone besides Chad Airhart to question someone’s “Iowa Values” since Airhart supports gay marriage.  Last I checked, that is not generally consider to be good “Iowa Values” in a Republican primary.
  5. The Des Moines Register entitled its article about Jacobs entering into the race, “Wealthy former energy CEO Mark Jacobs joins U.S. Senate race.”  I can’t wait to see the headline “Liberal curly-haired trial lawyer Bruce Braley.”
  6. Even Sasha Issenberg, a writer for liberal publications like Slate, thought the Register’s reporting on Jacobs was a little over the top.  He tweeted, “Is this what passes for journalism in Iowa these days?”  Sadly, in central Iowa it is.

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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.

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