Rod Roberts
Rod Roberts
Carroll Republican Rod Roberts, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals director and a former state legislator and candidate for governor, this morning said he viewed a potential bid for the U.S. Senate as an uphill battle but would not rule out a campaign.

"In politics, you never say never," Roberts said.

After spending nearly a year on the gubernatorial campaign trail in the 2010 election cycle, Roberts closed his Terrace Hill pursuit with a third-place Republican primary finish. But Roberts developed a statewide brand and earned praise as a consensus-building politician who could bring conservatives and moderates together in his party.

Roberts earned significant goodwill with a state party convention speech in which he supported Gov. Terry Branstad's choice of a running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, amid a spirited challenge from conservative Bob Vander Plaats. Many saw Vander Plaats' attempt to hijack the second slot for himself as vain and destructive - a marked contrast with Roberts' selfless approach - which Republican insiders have not forgotten.

The Iowa political world is jumping with speculation about possible successors to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the liberal lion who announced he will not seek re-election to a sixth term in 2014. Topping the list on the Republican side are U.S. Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King.

"Then maybe a couple of others," Roberts said.

Reynolds' name is being floated by pundits and some Republicans as a possible candidate for the Senate. On the Democratic side, the conversation at this point hinges on the decision of U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term Democrat from Waterloo.

Roberts said Republicans started reaching out to him and suggested he consider running for the Senate seat after the Harkin press release went national.

"You don't just dismiss that," said Roberts, a former state legislator who consistently ran up commanding numbers at the polls in the Carroll area.

Roberts, even with statewide experience, said his challenge clearly would be fundraising in what will undoubtedly be an expensive campaign.

"Realistically, I don't know how it (major fundraising) is even in the realm of possibility for somebody like me," Roberts said.

One other possibility for Roberts is a bid for the 4th Congressional District seat should King, a Kiron Republican, run for the Senate.

"I think that becomes another interesting question," Roberts said.

Former Iowa Republican Party co-chairman David Oman, a party insider with ties to Branstad and former Gov. Robert Ray, said Roberts has earned consideration as a Senate candidate, that he clearly belongs in the pool of prospective candidates should Iowa's two current Republican members of Congress decide not to run.

"I've always been one who thinks highly of Rod Roberts," Oman said. "His word is good. He wears well."