Young Ends U.S. Senate Campaign to Seize Opportunity in Iowa’s Third Congressional District.
David Young ended his bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate on Thursday in order to seek the nomination for the now open Third District Congressional district.
Opportunities abound for Iowa Republicans in 2014. Senator Tom Harkin’s announcement a year ago that he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate was the biggest political development of the year in 2013. When Congressman Tom Latham announced he too would be leaving political office at the end of 2014, yet another opportunity was created for ambitious politicians and politicos in Iowa.
Young, Senator Chuck Grassley’s former Chief of Staff and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate told the Des Moines Register that he was ending his senate campaign to instead run for the congressional seat that Latham is vacating. A candidate for the Senate for over six months, Young has seized on the opportunity to run for congress instead trying to maneuver in the crowded U.S. Senate field. Despite Young’s solid but unspectacular fundraising efforts and dedication to traveling all across the state, his campaign for the U.S. Senate was stuck in neutral and his prospects of winning the nomination against better funded candidates were diminishing.
By choosing to run for the United State House of Representatives instead of the U.S. Senate, Young is increasing his odds of being successful. In the six months that Young has been running for the U.S. Senate, he built relationships with activists and donors across the state as well as increased his name ID. The first-time candidate experienced the highs and lows of running for statewide office, but running for congress is much more manageable than trying to campaign in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The expectations placed on a U.S. Senate candidate are much higher than those faced by a congressional candidate. The easiest place to see this proven out is in campaign fundraising. In his first two fundraising quarters, Young raised a respectable $153,000 and $112,000. Those are good fundraising hauls for a congressional candidate, but they are lackluster numbers for a statewide candidate given that the costs of running statewide are so much higher. If Young can maintain his fundraising pace, not only is he going to be able to put together a formidable congressional campaign, but he may be difficult to beat in a primary.
Running for Congress is also more manageable when it comes to staffing and other expenses. A U.S. Senate campaign requires staff to organize the state and turnout primary voters. On the other hand, Congressional campaigns are much more reliant on the candidate themselves. While staff is necessary, especially in a contested primary, a 20 county campaign is simply easier to organize and operate than a 99-county effort. Young’s congressional campaign will only have to advertise in two media markets instead of nine.
The opportunity for Young to opt for the Third Congressional District only exists because Matt Whitaker and Joni Ernst chose to stay in the U.S. Senate primary. Had either of them opted to run for Congress, they would have been the clear frontrunner in the race and likely a favorite to win in the general election as well.
The congressional race may soon be as crowded as the U.S. Senate race, but Young will likely manage that crowded field better than he did in the Senate race. There are plenty of names being bandied about for the Third District race, but there is no clear favorite. The fact that Young is already an active candidate who has money in the bank is a major advantage.
Three likely people to enter the race, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Robert Cramer, and State Senator Brad Zaun, all have strong appeal to the Republican base. Yet, Young, who’s also a conservative, is viewed as a more pragmatic politician based on his years of service as Senator Grassley’s Chief of Staff. If the three conservatives end up splitting the vote, Young may be able to build a large enough coalition of Republicans to win the primary.
Young’s decision to end his U.S. Senate bid couldn’t have been easy, but he was wise to see the writing on the wall and opt to run for the open congressional seat. While being a United States Representative by not come with the same prestige as being a U.S. Senator, it is no less important of an office. Likewise, the 45 year-old Young will be well positioned to run for higher office in the future if he’s successful in his congressional campaign.
Young made a calculated decision to end his senate campaign and run for Congress instead. While some may see it as a sign of weakness or defeat, I think Young is well positioned in the six-month primary that lies ahead in the third congressional district.
Success in politics is never guaranteed. While factors such as incumbency, money, political connections, name ID, and hard work are all important, a little luck or good fortune is often required to succeed. Young has put himself in a good position. Seizing on the opportunity created by Latham’s surprise retirement is a smart play, especially when others have already passed on the opportunity.
If Young is successful in winning the Republican nomination, it’s not going to be because of luck, it’s going to because he was smart enough to seize on an unforeseen opportunity.