DES MOINES, Iowa – Veteran Republican candidate and activist Bob Vander Plaats said he will give “serious consideration” to seeking the Republican nomination for the3 U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
In an interview, Vander Plaats said he’s been approached by many people urging him to consider a run in the primary and will make a final decision by Feb. 15. Activists said a decision by Vander Plaats to enter the race would shake up an already crowded field and could reshape the race.
“I’m going to give some serious consideration to the race,” Vander Plaats said. “It’s something I’ll give strong consideration to.”
Vander Plaaats said he’s seen polls showing he could be a strong candidate and is encouraged by those findings, and some argued he would be a very serious candidate, “He’s got a lot of name recognition and that could make hims frontrunner,” said long-time GOP activists Steve Scheffler. “I think it’s looking like a pretty good year.”
“He has managed to build himself a base” among social conservatives, said Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford. “It’s an opportunity.”
Vander Plaats certainly has a history of activism within the state’s Republican Party, and more importantly he has close tiers to social and religious conservatives who have come to dominate Republican politics in the state.
In 2002, Vander Plaats sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but lost to Doug Gross, In 2006, Vander Plaats again sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination, but dropped out to become Jim Nussle’s running mate, In 2010, Vander Plaats again sought the GOP gubernatorial but lost to Terry Branstad.
Vander Plaats in 2008 headed Mike Huckabee’s campaign that saw him win the caucuses and in 2010, Vander Plaats headed the campaign that led to the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices because of their role in a decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in the state.
Outside of electoral politics, Vander Plaats has been a leader of the Family Leader, a social and religious conservative group that is one of the most influential political groups in the state.
All of that history means Vander Plaats would be an important player in the GOP Senate race. U.S. Rep Bruce Braley is the only Democratic candidate, and Vander Plaats has already crafted an assault on Braley, yet another sign he’s serious about making the run.
“I think Braley is very vulnerable,” said Vander Plaats. “I think being an incumbent in Washington D.C. is a liability right now.”
Vander Plaats said he would look forward to that campaign.
“It would be a campaign of stark contrasts,” said Vander Plaats. “I think it’s a campaign we could win.”
There is considerable work to do before getting into a campaign against Braley, because there’s already a crowded Republican field in the race.
Already running are Mark Jacobs, Sam Clovis, Joni Ernst, Paul Lunde, Scott Schaben, Matt Whitaker and David Young.
Scheffler said Vander Plaats starts the race with far better name recognition and a longer political history than any of those candidates.