June 24, 2014

David Young, who showed he could spin a good joke and is blessed with a king's ransom of wit, told Republican 3rd Congressional District convention delegates Saturday that Washington, D.C., is obsessed with celebrity, that the nation's capital has turned into "Hollywood for ugly people."

That said, Young, a wonkish former aide to Chuck Grassley, does have something in common with Tom Cruise.

Both have productions of "All the Right Moves" on their professional resumes.

For Cruise, it's the 1983 movie.

For Young, it's an extraordinary special nominating-convention performance in which he and his able staff made all the right moves in Young's climb from fourth place in early balloting to the nomination in a six-candidate field.

"It pays to be everybody's second choice, and that's where David was," said Adair County Republican Party Chairman Ryan Frederick.

Young knew this. He also knew that as one of his local supporters, State Rep. Clel Baudler said, the delegates were eyeing not just fidelity to conservative ideology, but electability. They wanted a credentialed advocate, not a fire-breather who would scorch the earth of central and southwestern Iowa over the next 41/2 months.

Young, unlike his final opponent in the convention balloting process, State Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, used strong but measured language. He criticized President Barack Obama. But Young didn't go into cable talk-show territory with the sort of wild-eyed charges that turn off independent voters and turn on liberal special-interest groups.

Zaun said Obama is more corrupt than Nixon. On his anti-abortion stance, Zaun said: "I will spill my blood to save the unborn."

You could feel the swing voters swinging toward Democrat Staci Appel with each angry word from Zaun.

Meanwhile, Young, with a blend of confidence and humility, said members of Congress have the power to do more than complain about the president or vote against him. They have powers of oversight and accountability and investigation. And as Grassley's right-hand man, Young knows how to use them. In other words, Young sagely gave the 513 delegates a choice: get mad at Obama, or send someone to Washington who can use the system to get even, or least give it a sporting chance.

Each time Young took the stage in Urbandale at the convention he struck the correct tone.

Young's team arranged for the late-ballot endorsement from Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz once he was out of the running for Congress in this district that runs from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. It sunk the flat-footed Zaun.

In the end, Young turned the insider label inside out. As a former chief of staff to Grassley, Young convinced delegates that they're getting an employee, not a peacocking political climber. Young said he knows who his bosses are: the people of the 3rd District.

Young's political instincts on this Saturday, the most important of his political life to this point, were flawless. Few Iowa politicians have had such a day.