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May 3rd, 2013

King should “Punt” not “Pass” on U.S. Senate race

In the span of less than a week, two high-profile Iowa Republicans have taken themselves out of the mix for a 2014 U.S. Senate run.  Last week it was Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.  This week it was Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who pulled his name from consideration.

Meanwhile, Congressman Steve King continues to contemplate a run of his own.  King has been publically mulling over the idea for more than three months now.  During that span, he has told the media that the odds of him running for the seat are over 50 percent, suggesting he will make a decision soon.  Yet, we still all anxiously wait for his decision.

King has repeatedly told the media that he wants to make an informed decision, which likely meant he wants to line up key backers and look at some polling numbers.  Nobody can fault him for wanting to do that.  However, a quality assessment takes some time, but not three months.  Every time that King is questioned about his decision, his answer is usually that he will be making up his mind in the next week to ten days.  Reporters wait with baited breath, only to see the western Iowa conservative firebrand kick the can down the road a bit farther in his next interview.

This week King told a reporter that he was “embarrassed” that he hadn’t come to a decision yet.  That moment of honesty allowed reporters write articles that poke fun at his indecision.  King’s process has dragged on so long that John Deeth, a liberal blogger, compared King to Brett Favre.  Deeth tweeted, “The Steve King will he or won’t he decision drama is starting to rival the final seasons of Brett Favre.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous I didn’t come up with that line.

King finds himself in a difficult predicament.  On one hand, he is preventing the primary to officially get underway by not making a decision on whether or not he will run for the Senate.  That’s good if you actually want to run for the Senate, but if he doesn’t pull the trigger, he ends up looking like a fool for taking so long to make up his mind.

If I was advising King, I’d encourage him to take a third option, punt!

King is obviously not ready to pull the trigger on a U.S. Senate campaign, nor is he ready to close the door on running.  The only people his decision really affect are the media, who want some certainty in the race so that it’s easy to cover, and the other potential candidates, who know they would never beat King in a primary and are chomping at the bit to get going.

Instead of announcing that he will or will not run for the U.S. Senate, King should announce that he’s going take a pass for now and assess the race late in the fall.  This would give candidates like Joni Ernst, Matt Schultz, and Matt Whitaker the green light to proceed with their campaigns.  If one or two of them are able to find success over the next six to seven months, then there is no reason for King to consider getting in the race.  If the Republican field looks weak and the prospects of defeating Braley in the general election are slim, it would allow King to enter the race at that time.

As things currently stand, King is in a no-win situation.  If he continues to kick the can down the road, he looks indecisive and will be viewed as not taking the race seriously.  If he announces he’s running, Republicans and the media alike are going to wonder what took so long.  If he bows out, liberals will call him a coward and Republicans will wonder what good it did for him to drag out his decision so long.

The smart play is to punt and let those eager to get going formally jump into the race.  There is more than a year before the Republican primary, which means there is plenty of time for King to survey the land.  The worst thing he could do is continue to let the media hash out his decision making process in public.  The best laid campaign plans are done in private, not in the newspaper.

Punting the decision would give King and the other potential candidates some space in which they all can operate.  There is no reason why King should be forced to say yes or no to a Senate race 18 months before the general election, but he needs to regroup and take a step back and reassess his options without the help of the media.

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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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