Iowa Senate Primary Becomes 2016 Battleground

The campaign trail in Iowa this week might look a little familiar: As Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stump around the state, former Sen. Rick Santorum’s face is plastered on the local airwaves.

The 2012 presidential primary is long gone, but a couple of the GOP’s future presidential hopefuls are using the Senate primary in the crucial nominating state to their advantage.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has backed the GOP front-runner, state Sen. Joni Ernst. Romney, who is not expected to run in 2016, has also given her his support. Meanwhile, Perry has endorsed former District Attorney Matt Whitaker. Santorum is supporting radio host Sam Clovis. A fourth candidate in the race, former energy executive Mark Jacobs, does not have any endorsements from likely presidential candidates.

The contest marks a rare opportunity for 2016 hopefuls: There hasn’t been an open-seat Senate race in the Hawkeye State in three decades. By backing a Senate candidate, presidential prospects can cement relationships with them and their staff that could be valuable next cycle — no matter if their chosen Republican wins or loses.

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