Ensign visits Iowa — let the presidential speculation begin

Let the tongues begin wagging: Sen. John Ensign is the latest politician to make a campaign-like swing through all-important Iowa, a visit sure to prompt chatter that the Nevada Republican wants to be president.

Ensign is headed to western Iowa, where a disproportionately large slice of the GOP electorate lives, to deliver a lecture for the American Future Fund’s Conservative Lecture Series.

But taking a look at his schedule for the one-day visit, one could be forgiven for mistaking it for a full-blown campaign swing.

Ensign will tour Trans Ova Genetics, a Sioux Center company that bills itself as a leader in bovine reproductive technology. That might put some people off their lunch, but not Ensign, who, before heading to Congress, was a practicing veterinarian.
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Later, Ensign will hold a meet-and-greet in nearby Le Mars at the world-famous Blue Bunny ice cream parlor, located at the Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center, the town’s self-ascribed title.

That evening, Ensign will deliver the second address in the Conservative Lecture Series — former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) gave the first last month — to what could be a packed house in Sioux City.

Ensign isn’t seen as a potential top-tier candidate, but maybe he should be: As a former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Ensign has ties to big donors around the nation, and he’s got a more conservative record than most of his fellow Republicans.

Ensign also hails from a state that holds its nominating contest early. In 2008, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) scored a big win in Nevada, though the state was largely overshadowed by South Carolina, which held its primary the same day.

But no trip to Iowa would be complete without the requisite denial from top aides.

“Right now, Sen. Ensign is focused on his work for Nevadans and his role as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee,” spokesman Tory Mazzola said.

— R.W.

Oops: Utah AG fumbles Senate announcement on Twitter

Just recently, we saw our first Twitter campaign launch. And without fail, a couple months later, we have our first botched Twitter campaign launch.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) inadvertently tipped his hand Tuesday that he’ll enter the primary against Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in 2010, falling victim to the very technology another primary candidate used to enter the race — on purpose — earlier in the day.

Following a Twitter announcement from former congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater (R) that he would challenge Bennett, Shurtleff fired off a series of Twitter messages he thought were private.

The writing is strange and hard to decipher, but the message is clear: Shurtleff is in.

“I’m announcing I’m running at 12,” he wrote in one post.

“It will also be against Bennett and I’ll pick up his delegates when he drops off the first ballot,” Shurtleff writes, ostensibly referring to the multi-ballot nominating process at the Utah GOP’s state convention.

Shurtleff says in another that he will have “all of the legislative conservative causcus [sic] and other senators and representatives there endorsing me. Time to rock and roll!”

Finally, Shurtleff seems to realize the messages he thought were responses to an individual were actually going out to everybody following his feed. He deleted them, but they were saved for posterity by KCPW radio.

He then promised to make an official announcement next week.

“Thinking of ‘texting while drowsy’ law after private 1AM tweet went public,” he wrote sheepishly. “Formal announcement on 5/20 about senate race and tweeting plans.”

Bennett has said Shurtleff would pose his most formidable reelection race ever, and nobody knows for sure what will happen with the state’s odd nominating process.

The process Shurtleff was referring to requires a candidate seeking the nomination to earn 60 percent of the delegates at a nominating convention. If nobody gets 60 percent, the top two go to a primary.

—A.B.

Anti-Crist uprising? Not yet

Blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com is circulating a petition to withhold funds from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for its Tuesday endorsement of centrist Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in Florida’s Senate race.

There were bound to be some conservatives unhappy with the move, but The Backroom doesn’t see this move hampering the NRSC in any serious way.

Remember during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary when 21 Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE donors sent Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a letter threatening to withhold money from Democratic campaigns if she didn’t reverse her anti-Clinton position on superdelegates?

Well, it didn’t work then, and those people had a lot of money to withhold. Meanwhile, the conservative blogosphere has proven significantly weaker, especially in terms of generating fundraising dollars, than the left-leaning netroots.

If Crist makes it through the primary, he could save the NRSC millions that it would otherwise have had to spend in the general election. It’s hard to see this petition holding up anywhere near that much money — especially when so many people don’t know much about Crist’s record.

— A.B.