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Whitaker, a former football star at the University of Iowa, said he'd seek to emulate Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes Overnight Defense: House to begin work on defense policy bill | Panel to vote Monday on Pompeo | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump appeals decision blocking suspected combatant's transfer MORE (R-Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE (R-Texas) if elected and could draw some strong support from Tea Party and libertarian voters in the primary. But those views could be tough to sell statewide in the swing state.

A number of Republicans, including the state's governor, lieutenant governor, both Republican House members and the state's agriculture secretary have previously ruled out a challenge to Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D-Iowa) for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE's (D-Iowa) retirement.

Other potential GOP candidates include Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley renews complaints about History Channel Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos MORE's (R-Iowa) chief of staff, David Young.