State Sen. Randy Feenstra’s early and aggressive GOP primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, changes the decision-making for one of the rising stars in Iowa politics, Democrat J.D. Scholten.
Scholten, a Sioux Citian with an instinct for retail politics and a native likability, nearly pulled off one of the great political upsets of the modern era in his campaign against King last November.
Now with Feenstra positioned as an exceedingly strong Republican candidate, and I’m going to say likely winner of the GOP primary, Scholten would be wise to set his sights on the 2020 U.S. Senate race and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. He has more of an opportunity to win that seat than the 4th District congressional spot now held by King.
If Feenstra wins the primary, not even a resurrected John F. Kennedy wins the 4th District in the general.
Sure, King, who has won nine terms, could emerge victorious in the June 2020 primary — a lot can happen in politics (and the world) in a year and a half. But if a winning King scenario unfolds in the primary, Scholten would have to wonder if King is also then strong enough to take the general election.
Scholten’s better play is to jump to a campaign statewide in a race with Ernst where Scholten will find more hospitable electorates for Democrats in Iowa’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts — while cutting into the traditional Republican margin in the 4th District because of his successful, although not winning, campaign for Congress here.
One of the only potential Democratic candidates Scholten should stand down for is former Gov. Tom Vilsack who has not ruled out a run for the Senate — having served eight years as U.S. secretary of agriculture. Vilsack may feel a responsibility in the presidential cycle, with Trump as the standard-bearer, to move Iowa for the Democratic presidential candidate, and there’s no better way to do that than by running for the Senate campaigning on farms in 99 counties and telling the ag sector how he’s going to travel to China and Mexico and Canada and other countries personally as a senator to boost exports.