With reports that Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will pass on the state's open-seat Senate race, and increasing speculation that Rep. Steve King is a no-go as well, Hawkeye State Republicans are taking another look at their bench as the Senate field grows increasingly murky.
Besides King and Reynolds, the remaining member of the "Big Three" -- candidates with field-clearing potential -- is state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey. But one Iowa Republican operative told Hotline On Call last week that it's "highly unlikely" Northey will run. The ongoing activity from lower-tier candidates, says former Iowa GOP Chair Steve Grubbs, is an indication King, Reynolds and Northey aren't gearing up for a Senate bid and crowding others out.
So who does that leave? The list starts with former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, a tight end on the University of Iowa's Big Ten championship football team in 1990. Whitaker has said he'll run if King opts not to, primary or not. Some operatives say his no-nonsense style would play well statewide.
Another possibility is Secretary of State Matt Schultz, whom one operative praised Tuesday. "He's a proven statewide winner, he speaks well and he's young," said the Iowa Republican. "He doesn't have a voting record, but he certainly has a record of working on issues that are close to voters' hearts."
West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer was also praised as a strong fundraiser and solid potential candidate, but he told the Des Moines Register last week he's not in the running -- at least for now.
Other reports have mentioned former gubernatorial candidates Rod Roberts and Bob Vander Plaats. Vander Plaats, a social conservative activist, has not ruled out a Senate bid.