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Political Mercury

Roberts, GOP’s strongest candidate, remains in U.S. Senate mix, decision on bid expected in weeks


Former State Rep. Rod Roberts of Carroll says he plans to make a decision within weeks on a possible bid for the U.S. Senate.

“Yes, I’m still seriously considering running,” Roberts, a Republican, said in an interview late last week.

Roberts, who lost a GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 to Gov. Terry Branstad, built a statewide network in the process. He is approached regularly with questions from party regulars and other Iowans about the prospects of a Senate campaign.

Expect a decision before Thanksgiving — and possibly in the month of October, Roberts said.

“I’ve always believed there was room for someone to enter the primary in the fall,” Roberts said.

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Roberts, the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, said the Terrace Hill run gives him an understanding of the sort of infrastructure, from money to boots on the ground, that it will take to compete in a Senate race.

He’s touching those bases in terms of an analysis of a 2014 Senate run.

“Many of those conversations already have taken place,” Roberts said.

The Republican U.S. Senate field now includes state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak; David Young of Van Meter and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s chief of staff until recently; radio-talk personality Sam Clovis of Sioux City; former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Des Moines; Ames author and attorney Paul Lunde; and former Ames car salesman Scott Schaben, a Kuemper Catholic High School alum.

Mark Jacobs of West Des Moines, the former CEO of Texas-based Reliant Energy, is considering a bid for the office.

U.S. Rep. Steve King; R-Kiron, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham; R-Clive, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz; Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey; and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have all passed on running for the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo is the presumptive Democratic candidate.

Campaign finance reports filed in coming days are likely to help guide decision-making for Roberts and Jacobs.

In his campaign for governor, Roberts showed natural presence on a statewide stage.

An evangelical Christian who has helped to develop churches in Iowa, Roberts is the real deal on the issues that animate the GOP base.

At the same time, remarkably, Roberts, an affable, approachable man, who is firm but not mean, can reach independents and conservative Democrats. Roberts has spent a hefty share of his time in public service on education and economic development. People who disagree with him like him — and trust him.

He is better positioned than any other Iowa Republican to bridge divides in the party. Conservatives won’t feel they are compromising — and moderates won’t be in nose-holding mode. His campaign platform, at its essence, is this: small government and decency.

Roberts has campaigned across Iowa. He earned enormous goodwill when, at the 2010 state GOP convention, he supported Branstad’s choice of Reynolds for lieutenant governor when the atmosphere was ripe for mutinous maneuvering that could have landed the Carroll Republican with the No. 2 gig. He’s shown loyalty to Branstad, which is the coin of the realm in politics.

Moreover, where Karl Rove and national strategists — the big money men — are concerned, Roberts is no ball-dropper. He’s steady on his feet, a step ahead of the reporters’ questions, a political fish who knows how to swim around the bait. Roberts won’t pull the grenade pin in his own foxhole, blowing up months of work, tens of millions of dollars in donations, with a stray comment on rape or an errant characterization of an immigrant.

burns doug 12-10-25At the end of the day, elections come down to likability and trust.

Roberts, more than any other Iowa Republican, can match Braley. He’s the GOP’s star recruit, waiting to be signed. It’s all there. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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