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Matt Whitaker on Football, Geography and Bear’s | The Candidate #IASEN

Whitaker will run for Senate. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Whitaker will run for Senate. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Every year, scores of congressional candidates visit the CQ Roll Call offices to meet with reporters and Contributing Editor Stuart Rothenberg. This feature, “The Candidate,” will ask these congressional hopefuls five questions about their campaigns. Responses and questions have been edited and condensed.

The candidate: Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, a Republican
The member: Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
The state: This will be Iowa’s first open-seat Senate race since 1974. The state is a perennial battleground.
The candidate’s team: Jeff Roe of Axiom Strategies (general consultant), Terry Nelson of FP1 Strategies (media), Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research (pollster), Jeff Livingston (finance).

1. You’re one of several candidates vying for the nomination. How can you distinguish yourself in such a crowded primary?

I think there’s two things that are going to help us in this campaign. One is that I’m a full-spectrum conservative that appeals to a broad section of Republican primary voters. At the same time, we have geography in both central and eastern Iowa, which I have spent a lot of time in. So stances on issues, along with geography, are what make me a competitive candidate.

2. This is your second bid for statewide office. What did you learn from your 2002 run for state treasurer?

You’ve got to work harder, you’ve got to go more places, and you have to raise more money. Those are things that we’re already doing, getting all over the state, making 49 fundraising calls every day. It’s what we need to do.

3. What’s the best thing about your hometown of Ankeny, or your favorite thing to do there?

Well, it used to be Bear’s Restaurant, but that recently closed. I grew up going to Bear’s a couple times a month. They had the best double-cheeseburgers.

4. You wore #46 as a tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes. I’ve always wanted to know: How do they distribute jersey numbers in college football? Did you get to choose, or did they just throw you a jersey on the first day of practice?

I came in as a defensive end and linebacker, so I got a linebacker number. When I switched to offense, I just kept the number. It’s assigned — only the really, really good players get to pick. They’ll get No. 1. Usually it’s just that when the senior class leaves, their numbers are available.

5. Is running a campaign more like prosecuting a case or running an offense in football?

It’s probably like running a football team, with both offense and defense and all the moving parts of that.