I’ve seen some discussion about the Des Moines Register’s Top 50 Republicans list for the Iowa Caucuses complied by Jennifer Jacobs. For the most part is is a pretty good list mentioning most of the main players. Here are five observations I have about it though:
1. It lacks clarity.
I agree with Bleeding Heartland. Des Moines Dem wrote, “It seems like Jacobs couldn’t decide whether she was making a list of the 50 most influential Iowa Republicans, or the people who will be most sought out by presidential candidates.” Very true, you have at least nine people on the list who have made commitments not to endorse and therefore won’t work for a campaign either. I also agree with her that most, if not all, of the top 10 won’t endorse. That’s not to say they aren’t influential, it’s just that they won’t be exercising that influence for the Iowa Caucus.
2. Being an effective campaign staffer doesn’t (necessarily) equal influence.
This dovetails with my first observation. There are some people who are on this list who are great at the work that they do. Tim Albrecht is an effective communications/PR guy, Phil Valenziano, Grant Young, they are great, hardworking campaign staffers, but influencers? That can be debated and it depends on how you define influence and/or who the target of the influence is. The same can be said for activists who are already backing a candidate at this point.
3. Money doesn’t (always) mean influence.
Well, it depends on who you are trying to influence I suppose. Being wealthy doesn’t mean you will have influence with the electorate, but usually have a good network. Granted there are a number of individuals listed that do belong on the list, in particular, the prolific fundraisers mentioned. While fundraising is definitely important I think these folks are more influential in a primary than a caucus. Campaigns are hard-working, cover-the-state, and have a good grassroots strategy typically do well in the Iowa Caucus. That’s the beauty of it. It’s very difficult to buy so to speak.
4. Republican/Conservative media personalities are tangibly influential.
You know this via the number of listeners, subscribers, readers, social media platforms, etc. Yet none were listed For instance – no Steve Deace? I mention Steve in particular because he does offer an endorsement and has increased in influence with a national presence now as a syndicated radio talk show host and columnist. Whether you agree with the guy or not is irrelevant. Jan Mickleson doesn’t endorse, but he is a great conduit to grassroots Republicans and candidates need to shoot straight with him (ask Mitt Romney).
5. It is subjective.
Lists like these are completely subjective. My previous four points are completely subjective as well. Jacobs relied on “GOP insiders.” Who knows who they are for certain? I have some idea based on who she quotes frequently, but it probably was broader than that. It certainly was more diverse than what I anticipated since Bob Vander Plaats, Sam Clovis, Karen Fesler, Lori Jungling, Gabe Haugland, and Cary Gordon for instance were on the list.
I don’t know if they were in order of ranking. If so, the most underrated guy on the list is Chuck Laudner who was instrumental working for the last two Iowa Caucus winners. He also ran an effective campaign to boot three Iowa Supreme Court justices he was toward the bottom of the list. He also has an extensive network in Iowa.
I’m surprised that Nick Ryan of American Future Fund and Concordia Group was left off. Also where was Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Congressman-Elect David Young and Congressman-Elect Rod Blum? National Republican Committeewoman Tamara Scott?
There are a few folks I wouldn’t have included if I were to make up my own list (which I have no plans to do). This isn’t a critique, it’s just a fact. Lists like these are always subjective and because of that they’ll never be perfect for any one person. When you limit them, in this case to 50 people, somebody will always get left off.