“Small-Time Businessman” Snags Key Romney Op

It may be a total coincidence that on the day Team Romney gave the world a peak via Mark Halperin of its very low opinion of Jeb Bush, the proto-candidacy of Jeb Bush gave Des Moines Register political reporter Jennifer Jacobs a scoop that it had pulled off a coup by recruiting long-time Romney Iowa operative David Kochel–not just for an Iowa Caucus campaign, but to run the whole Jebbie shooting match down in Miami.
Word must have gotten around quickly, because in Halperin’s account Romney knew about Kochel’s impending defection, and wrote it off as attributable to Kochel’s longstanding relationship with Bush consiglieri Mike Murphy, who in turn worked with Kochel on many of Terry Branstad’s 150 gubernatorial campaigns. Indeed, as a sign of how incestuous Iowa presidential politics can be on both sides of the candidate/media barricades, Jacobs quoted Halperin’s extremely characteristic reaction to her exclusive:

“Ain’t no hyperbole to say that @JebBush’s hiring of @ddkochel is 1 of the 5 most significant developments of ’16 cycle so far,” tweeted Mark Halperin, co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and one of the nation’s top TV political pundits.

But most of Jacob’s piece is a gushing profile of Kochel’s power and glory. To understand it, you have to appreciate the funhouse mirror of Iowa politics. On the one hand, it is the Land of Giants, so thick on the ground with Political Geniuses and Kingmakers and Power-brokers you can’t stir ’em with a stick. On the other, this puffed-up self-image has some insecurity at its core; thus Jacobs seems very excited that an Iowan may actually be running a top-shelf presidential campaign (the only precedent, she carefully notes, was Terry Nelson of the 2008 McCain campaign).

So it’s hard to say how much this matters, since the news may be eclipsed by the next hiring of an Iowa Political Titan next week, just as the Kochel news eclipsed Scott Walker’s “coup” in retaining David Polyanski last week, which Jennifer Jacobs was also excited about. Maybe it’s just the intimate size of the state and its political class, but the Invisible Primary there is very visible in the sense that everybody’s eventually in the same line for soup or a sandwich at Palmer’s Deli.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.