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No Campaign, No ProblemWhy Harkin Matters in the 2012 Elections

No Campaign, No Problem—Why Harkin Matters in the 2012 Elections

Every four years, thousands of staff, volunteers, journalists and political candidates of every stripe descend on a handful of select states in an effort to help shape American elections. Those states, known as battleground states" or swing states," include giants such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In between are a handful of Midwestern states, small and somewhat anonymous compared to their bigger siblings. Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin collectively hold 30 electoral votes, only one more than Florida alone. But despite their small stature on the electoral map, they wield great power in selecting presidents and identifying rising political stars. One of the smaller Midwestern states, Iowa, wields unusually large power. It holds a whopping six electoral votes, and is home to one of the dietary supplement industrys champions, Sen. Tom Harkin (D).

Harkin is not up for re-election in 2012. But that does not mean that his role in the upcoming election is diminished in any way. Quite the contrary. Harkin, like several of his colleagues who are not up for re-election this cycle, can and will play a critical rolethat of a top-elected official in battleground states. He is one of the most powerful, respected and important elected officials in the entire region, so his role will not only be one of helping re-elect President Barack Obama and his fellow Senators in policy debates, but also campaigning on behalf of the president in Iowa and throughout the Midwest.

Over the last several presidential elections, Iowa has become a true battleground state; Vice President Al Gore won in 2000, President George W. Bush won in 2004 and President Obama won in 2008. While President Obama retains high likeability ratings in Iowa, Governor Mitt Romney has made significant strides and is also well-liked in the state. Moreover, 2010 saw the return of a Republican to the governors mansion in Iowa, leading many analysts to predict Iowa may be a hotly contested state this year. Romney built an impressive grassroots operation throughout the state and believes it is winnable. Obama will need strong allies to help keep Iowa in his win column, and Harkin will surely be one of his strongest supporters. Harkin has been serving the state since 1985 and has a solid foundation of trust with voters. Many of these voters will take his views into account when they cast their ballot on Nov. 6.

One of Harkins priorities will be to defend and promote the landmark health care reform legislation passed into law more than two years ago. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin helped usher this important and controversial legislation into law. This law has evoked tremendous emotion throughout the political arena and undoubtedly will feature heavily in every campaign for federal office. Its role in this election will mirror the role it played in the 2010 mid-term elections, with most campaigns making health care reform a major component of their platforms. If Governor Romney and the majority of republicans running for the House of Representatives and Senate continue to hammer away at ObamaCare, Harkin, the powerful chairman of HELP, will be in high demand as a surrogate to insulate the president and Democrats from Republican attacks against the law. His ability to help shield the president and his colleagues may go a long way to determining the outcome of several close races.

Another priority for Harkin will be ensuring Democrats retain the majority in the Senate. Republicans see the majority as an attainable target, and are actively looking to claim it. The party in control will dictate many of the Senates priorities over the next two years, and the number of seats in play will determine who controls the Senate in the 113th Congress. One of the unspoken rules of politics is that to get ahead, you have to give a hand, and that means raising money and campaigning, even if its not for your own campaign. By helping his colleagues and other candidates defend their own seats, he is protecting the majority Democrats currently command in the Senate. However, many Republicans are working diligently to take the Senate majority from the Democrats. At this point, it is too close to call.

Harkin is a staunch wellness advocate with a long history of working to improve the lives of all Americans. He is a leader on the dietary supplement industrys most important issues. He, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), built the framework for the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), moved it through Congress, watched as it was signed into law, and have subsequently worked to ensure the law is carefully and correctly applied as it was intended. He is a supplement user, and he regularly engages with stakeholders to understand the issues. Outside of our industry, he is viewed by many as a statesman who is widely recognized as influential and is therefore an important surrogate for the president and the democratic party.

No matter how you view his politics, one thing remains indisputable: for a person whose name will not appear on any ballot this November, Harkin will certainly have an active role in determining the fate of many elected officials whose names will appear on a ballot.

Mike Greene is vice president, government relations, for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a dietary supplement industry trade association.

Here Greene discuss the 2012 Elections along with Loren Israelsen, executive director, United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), and John Shaw, executive director and CEO, Natural Products Association (NPA) as SupplySide West on Thurs. Nov. 8 from 11 to 11:50 a.m., Las Vegas.

View a slide show of all the education SupplySide West has to offer the dietary supplement industry.

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