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Political Mercury

Rod doesn’t hang his sneakers in the hurt locker


Rod Roberts is a supremely nice man, in a courtly way that makes you think he time-machined here from more serious decades in America when manners mattered. He is also a highly competitive man who is not intimidated. Yes, these two characteristics can co-exist in a modern politician.

But too many people — most of them with heard-but-not-seen personas accessible through your midday radio dial — confuse decency and niceness with being soft.

“Rod didn’t offer a reason other than, ‘I’m Rod Roberts and I’m a nice guy,’ ” said Steve Deace, an Iowa native and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, about Roberts’ prospects in a potential U.S. Senate run. “What’s your plan? It’s something you’re going to do that shakes things up. Offer people something.”

Political Mercury has made the case for well over a year that Roberts is the best-positioned Iowa Republican succeed Tom Harkin and to bring disparate, if not warring, elements of the GOP together. He’s an evangelical with a legislative track record that focused heavily on business and economic development.

Roberts has the rhetorical chops, the policy background and the legislative experience to out-compete anyone in the current GOP field. And he has a separating quality that will emerge in the general election. Like former president Ronald Reagan, one of his role models, Roberts is not an angry man. Bottom line: He wants to beat you, but he doesn’t want to hurt you. Roberts won’t be hanging his running sneakers in the hurt locker.


Nice guys can still win in Iowa. Having some class is still an asset — one that is vastly underrated.

As his fellow Carroll Countian Scott Siepker cleverly shows us, Iowa Nice doesn’t exactly mean what those looking at us from across the Missouri and Mississippi think.

Roberts wants nothing of this zero-summing of our politics — the fast orbiting of Planets Who’s Up and Who’s Down in The Twitterverse. He’s not some character out of Mark Leibovich’s devastating book “This Town,” in which Capitol City denizens are little more than competing brands (when they’re up) and caricatures (when they’re down) in Washington, D.C.’s incestuous money merry-go-round.

His campaign would be the homemade casserole competing in an Iowa Senate GOP primary diet of McDonald’s nuggets and Wendy’s fries. You can’t always describe the authenticity, but you know it when you smell or taste it. Iowans, for the uninitiated, love their casseroles.

The GOP can take back the United States Senate in 2014 — and Iowa may very well be central to that.

But Republicans have to get out of their own way. They need a steady hand, a candidate who is not a ball-dropper, so they can leverage mid-term advantages and real and perceived problems for the Democrats.

Roberts is the man for the job for Iowa Republicans.

Do you really want to put the possible fate of the U.S. Senate in Joni Ernst’s hands just because Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds likes her based on, what, gender and the fact that both served in county government south of Interstate 80?

In answer to Deace’s challenge, look for Roberts, should he get in this contest, to run hard and heavy on deficits and debt — because, really, from a Republican perspective, all problems, whether you’re in a Rotary Club meeting or holding a placard outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic, stem from Big Government.

Remember that old saying about keeping the big thing the big thing.

Roberts is approached regularly with questions from party regulars and other Iowans about the prospects of a Senate campaign. He doesn’t have to prove his social-issue bona fides to anyone, meaning he has the flexibility to reach more voters in his party and a general election. Also, no Missouri missteps on abortion policy.

Several weeks ago, Roberts said he likely would make a decision on a U.S. Senate race by the time gravy flowed onto Thanksgiving turkey and potatoes.

“Some people serve that at Christmas as well,” he joked to me a few days ago. 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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