The most highly sought-after operatives on the market in the state have largely been scooped up, so those who acted quickly were rewarded. Rand Paul, for instance, had two former Iowa GOP chairmen on his team by June of last year. Those who weren't able to snatch up top-tier talent have attempted to compensate by bringing on advisers who either have less caucus experience, have weaker ties to Iowa, or were thought by many to be out of the game but were persuaded to jump back in for another go-round.
Some have had better luck dealing with the talent shortage than others. Even an all-but-certain candidate such as Ted Cruz, who is popular among conservatives in the state, struggled to find someone to lead his Iowa campaign before landing Bryan English as a senior adviser earlier this month, according to several Republicans in the state. Those in Cruz's camp, however, maintain they got their top pick. "Every other potential presidential campaign got their second choice because we got Bryan English," Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said.
And Marco Rubio hasn't even hired anybody for his expected campaign in the state yet, but Iowa Republicans anticipate that he will be rolling out his team there soon.
A handful of Iowa's top political hands are working for the recently reelected Gov. Terry Branstad and aren't expected to give up their gigs to team up with a White House hopeful. Jake Ketzner, who ran Branstad's reelection effort and now serves as the governor's chief liaison to the state Legislature, is often referred to as someone who would be a "first-round draft pick" for a presidential campaign. Matt Hinch, Branstad's chief of staff and a former Rep. Tom Latham aide, and Jimmy Centers, Branstad's communications director, likely would be highly prized if not for their current positions. (Chris Christie picked up two of the most prominent former Branstad aides available for hire: Jeff Boeyink and Phil Valenziano.)
And on the finance side, Cameron Sutton, one of the top GOP donors in Iowa, has taken on the role of Sen. Joni Ernst's state director, so his services won't be available to any presidential candidates.
"One consequence of a very successful midterm is that it took a lot of operatives off the field for the presidential," said former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn.
Strawn, who now works at a public-affairs firm, is among the veteran operatives who have moved into the private or nonprofit sectors and don't want to pick sides in 2016. Another example is Craig Schoenfeld, who worked on Newt Gingrich's 2012 campaign and will likely stay on the sidelines because of his consulting work.
Whitaker, a former U.S attorney, also would be a valuable asset on any 2016 campaign. He chaired Pawlenty's 2012 Iowa campaign, and after the former Minnesota governor dropped out, he joined Perry's effort in the state as a cochairman. But Whitaker is now the executive director of a new watchdog group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, meaning he's going to be "staying Switzerland" this time around, as he put it.