US Senate

January 16th, 2014

Five of the Six Republican U.S. Senate Candidates Campaign in Red Oak

Five of the six candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate were in Red Oak for a five-county candidate forum on Wednesday night.

Three prominent candidates, Sam Clovis, State Senator Joni Ernst, and Matt Whitaker were in attendance, while two long shot candidates Scott Schaben and Paul Lunde were also there. The sixth candidate, Mark Jacobs was campaigning in central Iowa.

Despite Jacobs’ absence, event organizers still set out six chairs on the stage, noted that he told organizers that he wouldn’t participate last week, and took a moment of silence when they introduced the candidates in alphabetical order. His absence was noticed and discussed by many of the 100 people in attendance last night.

All six candidates will participate in a 90-minute debate on Sunday being put on by the Pottawattamie County Republican Party, WHO Radio, the Daily Nonpareil, and the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce.

All of the candidates who participated in the forum did well for themselves on Wednesday night.  As has been the case in most of the debates and forums held across the state, Clovis provides the most detailed and thought out answers regardless of what question is asked of him.  Ernst and Whitaker provided more succinct answers, but easily handled the questions they were asked.

The candidates were asked questions about Obamacare, Common Core, the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, immigration, the Fast and Furious scandal, and executive overreach by President Obama. The questions were selected at random, but Clovis, Ernst, and Young were each asked a similar question twice in the first hour of the forum.  When the moderator exhausted the prepared questions, they cycled though the questions again, but making sure not to ask they same question to a candidate twice.

While the debate hit on a number of important topics, there were no direct questions on tax reform, tax relief, spending, foreign policy (beside a question about Benghazi), energy policy, abortion or even other social issues.  Another issue with the forum, which has been a problem in most of the debates and forums held thus far, is that there was a serious lack of depth and sophistication in the questions being asked to the candidates.

Ernst seemed very comfortable debating in her home county.  She was calm, cool, and collected throughout the debate.  The one controversial thing that Ernst said came when she answered a question about President Obama’s use of executive orders and his willingness to bypass Congress on a number of issues.  Ernst stated that the President had become a “dictator” and expressed frustration that our elected leaders are not standing up to the administration.  She then suggested that Obama’s overreach is grounds for “impeachment.”

Whitaker was in a jovial mood as he often bantered back and forth with the forum’s moderator.  All of Whitaker’s answers were solid and appreciated by the audience.  Whitaker was at his best when he was able to weave in his experiences as U.S. District Attorney with various questions.  He did this with questions on immigration and the Fast and Furious scandal.

Scott Schaben did well at the forum, providing thoughtful answers to the questions he was asked.  His best answer of the night came when he was talking about the farm bill.  Schaben said that farmers are just like every other small businessman except in one instance- the farmer’s success is dependent on the weather, and that is why farmers need to be taken care of.  Schaben was also the only candidate to mention the ethanol industry.  Paul Lunde was his typical self.  He started the debate well, but by the end, every question was answered by him suggesting a constitutional amendment fix.

Third District Congressional Race Tries to Steal the Show

While the U.S. Senate candidates were spotlighted at the event, it also drew a number of candidates that have expressed interest in running for the Republican nomination for the Third Congressional District.  Iowa’s Secretary of State, Matt Schultz, who announced his candidacy last week, was there and  worked the crowd before the event.

Monte Shaw, a member of the Republican State Central Committee was also present.  Shaw has indicated an interest in the seat and was seen giving activists materials to pass out at next week’s precinct caucuses.  Shaw told to expect an announcement very soon.

Robert Cramer, a Des Moines area businessman and chairman of The FAMiLY Leader, a prominent pro-family social conservative group led by Bob Vander Plaats, was also at the event.  Cramer attended the event with Wes Enos, a former Republican State Central Committee member who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee.  Enos has worked for Vander Plaats in the past. Like Shaw, Cramer told that he would be making an announcement very soon.

David Young also made an appearance at the event.  Young is one of three announced candidates in the Third District primary race thus far.  Young also recently sent out a fundraising mailing to people in the district, which included a petition sheet for people to sign to help him get on the ballot in the district.  Joe Grandanette, the third announced candidate was also at the event and was recognized by the event moderator.


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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