July 25, 2014

Rod Roberts’ 2010 campaign manager backing Ernst in 2014

The third-place finisher in the 2010 Republican primary for governor hasn’t ruled out running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, but his 2010 campaign manager has endorsed another candidate.

Former State Representative Rod Roberts is currently the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. Governor Terry Branstad — the man who beat Roberts in that 2010 primary — appointed Roberts to the post. Roberts plans to decide by early this fall whether to quit his job state government job and join five other Republicans who’re already on the campaign trail.

“I’ve taken time this summer to evaluate the possibility of becoming a candidate,” Roberts told Radio Iowa Friday.

Roberts has set some “thresholds” he must meet in terms of financing and support among likely GOP voters, but he hasn’t determined yet whether he can attain those.

“There’s no formal decision made, but certainly, looking at the timeline, it’s now toward the end of August and probably by the end of October a person who wants to become a candidate in this senate race needs to be in,” Roberts said.

Mark Jacobs, a retired business executive, is not a formal candidate either, but has an “exploratory committee” for the U.S. Senate race in place. Five other Republicans are actively running, including former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, former Grassley chief of staff David Young, former soldier Scott Schaben, former radio talk show host Sam Clovis and state Senator Joni Ernst.

Frank Severino – the Urbandale man who was the campaign manager for Roberts in 2010 — heard Ernst speak this past Tuesday and is backing her now.

“We’ll be a fool if we lose a candidate of this caliber,” Severino said. “…I’d like to see a woman in the senate. I think that’d be very refreshing.”

Severino, who describes himself as a conservative, suggests Ernst ticks off all the boxes on his score sheet.

“She shares all my values,” Severino said.

Severino has met face-to-face with other candidates in the race.

“The first thing I asked them was if they had strategic plans. Two of them did not have a strategic plan,” Severino said. “In fact, one of them says, ‘We’re going to go to all 99 counties.’ Flawed. You cannot do that and win. You’ve got to Swiss cheese it.”

Severino argues with limited time and resources in a state the size of Iowa, candidates in a crowded primary have to concentrate on specific counties as target areas for votes.

Severino doubts Roberts will elect to jump into the race.

“I know he wants to very badly, but it’s not right,” Severino said Tuesday. “He’s got a good job and money’s the driver.” As in raising enough money to be competitive in the U.S. Senate race — and Severino said Roberts would find fundraising difficult.

Roberts loaned his 2010 gubernatorial campaign $13,000 and raised about $150,000 in contributions for that race. Bruce Braley, the only Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat Tom Harkin now holds, raised $1.25 million in the last quarter and reported having about $2 million on hand.