Cruz Gets the Big Win He Desperately Needed

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography. om

A win is a win. Wins in presidential campaigns are necessary, not just to garner the necessary delegates to capture the nomination of one of the two major political party’s, but they also provide the fuel for a campaign to continue on.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz needed a win in Wisconsin not just to further fuel his campaign, but to change the narrative of the Republican primary fight. Cruz needed to win in a rout over Trump. He was successful on Tuesday night, garnering 50 percent of the vote, but more importantly, he walked away with the lion’s share of the state’s 42 delegates.

While the win allows Cruz to begin closing the delegate gap between himself and Trump, the resounding victory is important because it makes it more likely that no candidate will win the 1237 delegates necessary to capture the Republican nomination outright. As it becomes more apparent that Trump win be unable to capture the nomination before the convention, Cruz will be seen as a stronger candidate in the remaining states.

Cruz benefited greatly from the “Never Trump” effort that spent millions of dollars attacking Trump in Wisconsin, and his win on Tuesday means that will likely continue. Another important factor on Cruz’s side is time. The Anti-Trump effort spent a lot of money in previous contests with little to show for it until Wisconsin.

What changed wasn’t the ads or avenue of attack, but the pace of race slowed considerably for the Easter holiday. Easter provided over two weeks for Cruz to campaign and for the Anti-Trump forces to attack the GOP frontrunner in advance of the vote in Wisconsin. It just so happens that there is another two-week period before the next contest in Trump’s home state of New York.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Cruz campaign and the Anti-Trump crowd approach New York. Not only is it Trump’s home turf, but it will also be expensive to play to win there. Instead, they may choose to ignore New York and instead focus on Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Regardless of what they choose to do, the most important thing is that they have the time to conduct a thorough campaign.

Trump can survive the loss in Wisconsin, but it’s the campaign that is sure to follow that will cause him problems. Trump let many of the negative ads running against him in Wisconsin go unanswered. The decision to do so is probably rooted in the belief that the Anti-Trump movements had not been all that effective. Trump’s luck ran out as the campaign slowed down, and now if he doesn’t fund a paid media campaign to counter the negative campaign being run against him, he could suffer the same fate.

How David Young Went from Fifth Place to Republican Nominee

David Young’s victory at Saturday’s Third District congressional nominating convention was stunning to say the least. While some will grumble about Republicans nominating a candidate who finished in fifth place in the primary, what happened on Saturday in Urbandale is far more complicated than just handing the nomination to the fifth place finisher in the primary.

Before we begin to try and explain why and how Young won the nomination on Saturday, let me first say that Young’s victory has to be one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the history of Iowa politics. Republicans often talk about Rick Santorum’s 2012 Iowa caucus victory, but what Young accomplished on Saturday is in a league of its own.

Young wasn’t just the underdog going into Saturday’s convention, he’s been viewed as an underdog ever since he resigned his position as Senator Chuck Grassley’s Chief of Staff to run for Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate seat in Iowa. What impresses me the most about Young is that, despite people repeatedly writing him off or even forgetting that he was even a congressional candidate at times, he never gave up, never was discouraged, and never quit working.

What Happened on Saturday

Delegates were shocked when Young beat Monte Shaw on the fourth ballot, but signs of Young’s strength were noticeable much earlier than that. After the second ballot, I tweeted that it was Young who was the surprise of the convention. I noted that he deserved a lot of credit for the nice block of support he was able to build.

Young received 86 votes on the first ballot, and while that was only good enough for him to finish fourth in the balloting, Young was strong enough to create some major problems for some of his opponents. Matt Schultz was particularly hurt by Young’s strength. Schultz, who served as a city council member from Council Bluffs, won Pottawattamie County on June 3rd, but it was Young who won the county in the early rounds of convention balloting. Young also basically equaled Schultz in Polk County and was able to pick up support from Dallas County delegates as the rounds of balloting progressed.

Schultz led Young in the first few round of voting, but it was Young who was able to pick up votes after Robert Cramer exited the race, not Schultz. On the third ballot, Young picked up 23 votes from Cramer, which is how he was able to surpass Schultz. Zaun also benefited from Cramer’s exit, but one cannot overlook how important positioning is in convention voting, and Young was the candidate on the move position-wise after the first major candidate was removed from consideration.

Many people believe that it was the Schultz supporters who voted for Young on the fourth ballot that shifted the dynamics of the convention, but it actually began a round earlier. Young just didn’t survive the third ballot, he put himself in position to move in front of Shaw on the next ballot. After the third ballot, Young trailed Shaw by only 24 votes. The problem Shaw had throughout the day on Saturday was that he didn’t have an ability to grow his support as candidates fell to the wayside. Shaw garnered an impressive 118 votes in round one, but the highest vote total he was able to get on Saturday was 126.

With Schultz out, Young was able to grow his support once again while Shaw actually lost a few votes. All of Schultz’s Polk County votes went to Young, and he picked up another big block of votes in Dallas County. There was definitely an “anyone but Shaw” sentiment at work on Saturday. Delegates were either with him or not. Young was not only able to pick up substantial support from Schultz’s supporters, but he was also able to pick up some votes that he lost in the early rounds of voting. Just as in the earlier round, Young was not only able to surpass a stagnant Shaw, but he put himself in position to challenge Zaun in the final round of voting.

After four rounds of voting, Young only trailed Zaun by 35 votes. Worse yet for Zaun, Young only trailed him in Polk County by 41 votes. With Shaw’s loyal votes not up for grabs, Young was well positioned to pick up the majority of them. It’s important to understand why Shaw’s voters were with him in the first place. They believed Shaw was the best candidate for the general election, and while it was never explicitly said, these voters felt that Zaun was not a good general election candidate.

Young was supported by 105 of Shaw’s 120 supporters, and his Cinderella story was completed. Young easily defeated Zaun by a final vote of 271 to 221.

Why it Happened

Some people are going to bemoan the fact the Republicans nominated the candidate who finished fifth in the primary, but the route Young took to victory was available to other candidates.

Matt Schultz could have won the nomination in very much the same way that Young did, but in hindsight, Schultz likely made a mistake by attacking Robert Cramer in the weeks leading up to the convention. Despite Cramer’s strong second place finish in the primary, I always believed he was going to struggle at the convention. Schultz needed those Cramer supporters, but he likely turned them off by attacking their guy.

Despite having a big block of voters on the initial ballot, Monte Shaw ended up being his own worse enemy. For some reason, Shaw felt it was necessary to declare himself the frontrunner for the nomination at the convention. All that did was put a target on his back, at which his opponents repeatedly took aim. Like Schultz, Shaw attacking Cramer was unwise. Those are the votes he desperately needed, and while those were unlikely votes for him to get, Shaw’s decision to go after Schultz and Cramer meant that the only candidate he could expect to pick up support from was Young.

Brad Zaun picked up support quickly, and at one point he did seem to be the inevitable nominee. Zaun would have easily been the nominee had the final ballot been between himself and Shaw, but Young crashed that party. His home county also hurt him when it split its vote 126 to 126 on the final ballot. Even though that result was shocking, more votes were cast against Zaun in Polk County in every round of voting than he actually received. People seemed distracted by his large vote total, but ,most people never realized throughout the day that he was struggling in Polk County.

It was also disappointing and foolish that a handful of voters left the convention once their preferred candidate was out of the running. What people often forget in the convention voting process is that it’s not the initial supporters of a candidate who deliver the win for their candidate, it’s the supports of other candidates who get knocked out that actually pick the nominee. Cramer, Schultz, and Shaw supporters determined who the Republican nominee would be on Saturday.

Looking Ahead

The outcome of the convention will probably renew the call to change Iowa law to allow for run off elections instead of conventions. That is an understandable reaction to what transpired at Saturday’s convention, but it should not be overlooked that Young was able to win because he was able to earn the support of his opponents supporters. He was a lot of people’s second choice and truly became the consensus candidate. We will look at how Young stacks up against Staci Appel later in the week.

Some Quick Thoughts

1. Some of the people who are the most upset about Saturday’s results should have involved themselves in the process instead of just being critics of it. It’s kind of like the Iowa Lottery’s motto – you can’t win if you don’t play. Yes, 513 delegates where charged with determining the congressional nominee in the Third District, but the caucus to convention process is open to everyone.

2. I think it’s telling that the final two candidates were individuals who did not attack their opponents and who also were never attacked.

3. Some people’s obsession about everything the Liberty Iowa crowd does or involves themselves in is unwarranted. Contrary to what many people think, Liberty Iowa’s support of Brad Zaun did not hurt his chances of winning. Zaun couldn’t seal the deal on Saturday because a number of delegates were rightly concerned about his ability as a general election candidate. We have been there and done that, and a majority of the convention didn’t wish to try it again.

4. Liberty Iowa also didn’t defeat Monte Shaw. Shaw was prevented from getting the nomination because he didn’t have any growth potential.

5. Young deserves all the credit. Of all the candidates, it was Young who obviously worked the delegates in a wise manner. He knew he wasn’t their first choice in many instances, but he worked hard to be people’s second choice, and it paid off. Young could also be seen walking through and talking to delegates all day. Young didn’t stop working until he was the nominee. It’s hard not to root for a candidate like that.

Third District Nominating Convention Delegate Clarification

The following is an email from Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Danny Carroll that was distributed to Third District Congressional campaigns and members of the State Central committee in regards to the delegates to the Third District nominating convention.

Good evening,

Yesterday the Republican Party of Iowa received an inquiry from a campaign regarding the seating of delegates and alternates for the 3rd district nominating convention on Saturday, June 21st.

That inquiry stated in part:

“I have concerns that lawfully elected delegates that have been submitted to the Republican Party of Iowa by county parties are being told they are not a delegate because of a rule passed at a county convention. These very delegates had credential badges for the 3rd District Convention and now they are being told they are not welcome to participate in a special nominating convention.”

Below is my response to the campaign. In order to ensure that the most accurate information is provided uniformly and openly I am sending a copy of this response to all the campaigns for the third district GOP nomination and State Central Committee members, current and incoming.

After reviewing the law, bylaws and RPI Constitution, here is my response:

Counties, individuals, or campaigns, should not be telling duly elected delegates or alternates that they are not delegates or alternates.

The Republican Party of Iowa charges a delegate assessment to each individual county during the caucus to convention process. Individuals themselves are not charged a fee by the State Party to be a delegate. Rules stipulate that a county’s delegates are seated so long as their county has paid the delegate assessment. All of the 99 counties have paid the assessment and therefore all delegates elected from their respective counties will be seated.

Any internal rule(s) that a county party adopts regarding a different way to seat delegates, or that would preclude an elected delegate from being seated, would not apply as far as the State Party is concerned. It is the position of the State Party that all delegates and alternates that were elected, shall be seated or will be eligible to be seated.

Throughout the process I understand that with sorting and re-sorting of the lists that data can be moved around within a spreadsheet. Recently we had one campaign call and ask us for the list again, as they wanted to ensure they had a properly sorted list so that each name and address matched up. This was no problem, and we sent it right away.

For clarification and to ensure that all campaigns running in the 3rd district are treated the same, I am including the official list of delegates and alternates from the 3rd District. It is attached in both a sortable, excel format, as well as a printable PDF version with an Iowa GOP colored watermark.

Iowa Code 43.97 requires delegates to district and state conventions to be elected at their county convention. Delegates cannot be appointed and county chairs are not legally able to appoint delegates/alternates to the district and state conventions. This law was referenced in a March 1st email by the previous State Chairman and sent to all county delegates and alternates for whom the State Party has an email address. I have also included the text of that email as a PDF attachment.

Pursuant to the code referenced above, and to ensure the same equal treatment for all throughout the process, it is my intention to recommend the use the attached list, and only the attached list, to credential delegates and alternates in for the State Convention and for the 3rd district special nominating convention.

Any county who has contacted the state party in the last week and informed us that they wish to add, remove, or change delegate names, has been told that would not be permitted. We have requested documentation and further information if they have objected, and as of this writing have not received any.

The role of credentialing falls on the credentialing committee, elected by delegates at their respective county conventions. I have, and will continue to encourage the credentialing committees to abide by the official delegate list.

If an individual, group, or county party wishes to challenge the status of a delegate they must do so in writing. As of this email, no individual, group, or county party has filed a formal challenge in writing regarding the status of a delegate.

In conclusion, it is my judgement that any county party that is telling duly elected delegates that they are not welcome to participate in the 3rd district special nominating convention, is not acting appropriately. Any delegate who was elected as such, remains a delegate throughout the caucus to convention process. Likewise for an alternate delegate. It is my intention to seat all delegates and alternates as per the rules of the process and the attached list.

I will advise the credentialing committee to do the same in order to provide the most accurate data, treat the elected delegates fairly and ensure that the Congressional campaigns are able to work off the same information they have been working off of for the past 2 to 3 months.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Danny Carroll
State Chairman

Third District Nomination is Up for Grabs

It took nearly a week, but the location of the Third Congressional District special nominating convention has been finalized.  The convention will be held at Des Moines Christian High School in Urbandale, and it will begin promptly at 10 a.m.  Even though the logistics of the convention were unfortunately the headline for much of last week, the reaction of the campaigns did provide us with a glimpse of each campaign’s mindset.

It was surprising to see four of the five credible campaigns come out and lobby the Republican Party of Iowa to have the nominating convention held on the same day as the state convention, which is this Saturday in Des Moines.  These campaigns made the same argument that the U.S. Senate campaigns made when the state party announced that it was going to move the date of the state convention from June 14th to July 12th.  Waiting to select a nominee is an advantage for the Democrats because they can start raising general election dollars immediately, while the Republicans are waiting around.

All that said, there is a big difference between holding the nominating convention the week after the state convention and having it on July 12th.  When no Republican surpassed the 35 percent threshold, the eventual Republican nominee was already going to be at a disadvantage since they will not be able to begin raising money for the general election until sometime on June 21st, which is just a little over a week before their first general election campaign finance disclosure.

Last week’s squabble over the convention also showed us that not all the Third Congressional candidates get along.  The campaigns of Robert Cramer, Matt Schultz, David Young, and Brad Zaun all signed a letter requesting the convention be moved, while a fifth candidate, Monte Shaw, wasn’t even approached to see if he would sign the letter.

The other candidates seem to be suspect of Shaw and worried that the Creston location may have benefitted him since he did well in the rural parts of the district.  Their zeal for wanting the convention to be held on June 14th and not June 21s also might have been motivated by the fact they didn’t want to give Shaw all that time to organize delegates before the convention.

Either the Cramer, Schultz, Young, and Zaun campaigns feel incredibly confident about where they stand with each of the 513 district delegates or they don’t yet realize how difficult the task at hand really is.  Counting delegate votes is incredibly difficult, and just because they tell you they are with you when you ask them for their vote doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually voting for you at convention.

We have seen this play out in many chairman elections with the Republican Party of Iowa.  There are always candidates who feel good about the vote only to get sideswiped when the votes are tallied.  That happens in an election with a total of a whopping 18 votes, now imagine multiplying that election by 28.  Simply put, these candidates have a ton of work to do before now and the nominating convention.  In 2002, Steve King drove across the entire Fifth District meeting with delegates individually.  That type of one-on-one campaign is necessary in this situation, as TV and radio ads no longer are effective or practical.

What is necessary is knowing exactly where you are delegate-wise and where your opponents are at.  The magic number is 257 if the maximum number of delegates are seated at the convention, but it’s very unlikely that any candidate is currently at that number.  Campaigns need to know what their hard delegate count is before the voting begins.  They can make deals with other campaigns until they are blue in the face, but if you don’t know where you stand when that first vote is taken, you’re probably going to be in for a long, or in this case, a short day.

Even though no candidate is going to be dropped after the first ballot and it’s unlikely that any candidate will have enough support to win the nomination on that ballot, where the candidates place in the first round of voting could be incredibly important.  Perception and inevitability are powerful things in politics, and it holds true in convention settings like this.  A candidate doesn’t need to finish first on every ballot to win the nomination, but it’s imperative that they don’t finish behind the rest of the pack as it will create doubt in their delegates minds, which may cause some of them to vote in the next round for their second choice.

Even though the results of the primary no longer matter, a candidate like Brad Zaun does have an advantage because he finished in first place.  The problem for Zaun is that while he did come out on top, his numbers in 2014 are nowhere near where they were in 2010 in Polk County.  In his 2010 Third District primary race, Zaun garnered 48 percent of the vote in Polk County.  This year he only mustered 33.5 percent.  In 2010, Zaun received 14,952 votes in Polk County alone, but in 2014, his number of votes dropped by 7,735, which is more than the 7,217 votes he received in 2014.  That’s a significant drop, and it hurts Zaun in the electability department, which may be a factor for convention delegates.

It’s also important to note that just because Zaun and Cramer finished first and second in the primary vote,  that doesn’t necessarily translate to support among delegates.  This is why getting your supporters to attend the precinct caucuses and county convention in order for them to be district delegates was important work back in January.

Most of the five serious candidates should have a delegate advantage in their home areas.  Zaun should do well in Polk County, Schultz should be strong in Pottawattamie County, and Monte Shaw should do well in the rural counties that he carried in the primary.  Cramer and Young don’t necessarily have a county to build their delegate strategy off of, but Cramer has widespread support across the district, and Young has some good pockets of support.

Shaw, who won 10 counties in the primary, has an advantage in securing many of the delegates from those counties.  The only problem is that none of the counties he won on primary day have large delegations.  Zaun won three large counties in Polk, Dallas, and Warren.  Polk County is a big prize in the primary, but the delegation is so diverse that Zaun might not have the advantage in the convention that one may think.

All of the candidates are working the nominating convention delegates.  On Sunday afternoon, Zaun and his wife pulled into my driveway as I was cleaning my garage.  Robert Cramer left me a message, and Monte Shaw held a meet and greet in town and gave me a phone call as well.  It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen a week from Saturday, but I think the fight for the nomination is wide open.  One can make a strong case for the top four finishers in the primary at convention, which will make this a fascinating nominating convention.

Later this week, TIR will look at the pros and cons of each candidate.  Delegates have a tough choice to make, and each candidate deserves to be thoroughly vetted so delegates can make an educated decision on the 21st.


Primary Day Roundup and Open Thread

It’s been 1 year, 4 months, and 8 days since Senator Tom Harkin announced that he would retire at the at the end of his fifth term in the United States Senate.  Today, Republicans go to the polls to choose who they think is the best candidate to represent them in the general election this fall.

While all eyes are on State Senator Joni Ernst, the frontrunner in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, the number to keep any eye on is 35, the percentage it takes to avoid a nominating convention.  If Ernst falls below the 35 percent threshold, primary night is going to be bitter-sweet as the primary will give way to an intense 10-day campaign for the hearts and minds of the state’s 2000 convention delegates.

Anything can happen in a convention scenario, which is why national groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Ernst in the final weeks of the campaign to avoid putting the outcome of the race into the hands of convention delegates.  In recent weeks, some outspoken social conservatives have begun to critique Ernst’s positions on a number of issues, if this race goes to convention Ernst may ultimately prevail, but her record is going to be scrutinized like never before.

Some things to keep any eye on tonight:

Turnout: I think it’s going to be low.

Originally, I thought the 2014 Republican primary would set a record for turnout, but with no well-known and established candidate in the race, I think turnout will be much lower than anyone expected.  Now I don’t think it’s going to be as low as it was in 2008 when only 77,454 Republicans participated in the U.S. Senate primary, but I also don’t think it’s going to come anywhere near the 229,731 people that voted in the 2010 primary.

Absentees numbers are down for Republicans from 2010.  In 2010, 26,483 people requested an absentee ballot and 20,034 returned them.  This year, 17,489 absentee ballots were requested by Republicans, and 16,116 have been returned.  Absentees accounted for about 9 percent of the total votes in 2010, and if that percentage holds true, it would mean that total turnout in today’s primary would be around 180,000.

I don’t think we are going to get to 180,000 today.  In fact, my turnout prediction is really low because I just didn’t see the excitement building as the primary approached.  My turnout prediction is 136,579. I basically kept the turnout in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Congressional Districts the same as 2012, and increased turnout in the 3rd by 12 percent due to the multi-candidate congressional primary going on there in addition to Ernst’s perceived strength in her home area and in in Des Moines amongst state government types.   It’s just a guess, so I could be way off.

If turnout is that low, Democrats are going to have a heyday on Wednesday.  A turnout of 136,000 would just be slightly more than the 120,000 Republicans who participated in the last presidential caucus.

The Des Moines Register Poll

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll showed Joni Ernst with a huge lead over the Republican field in the U.S. Senate primary this weekend.  Ernst clocked in at 36 percent, just above the 35 percent needed to avoid a messy and contentious state nominating convention.  Mark Jacobs came in a distant second at 18 percent, followed by Matt Whitaker at 13 percent, and Sam Clovis at 11 percent.

Those outside of the Ernst camp quickly dismissed the poll.  While Ernst seems to have momentum, heading into primary day, I don’t know anyone who thinks that Whitaker is in a stronger position in the primary than Clovis.

People also are well within their rights to question the Register’s polling results, since in 2010, the final Register poll gave Terry Branstad a 28-point lead over Bob Vander Plaats in the gubernatorial primary.  The Register poll had Branstad at 57 percent, Vander Plaats at 29 percent, and Rod Roberts at 8 percent.  Those numbers ended up being way off the mark

My main beef with the Register’s poll is that it is not a Republican U.S. Senate primary poll.  Instead, it is a general election poll in which they tell us how the likely Republican primary voters will vote in the election.  The problem with doing a poll this way is that the Republican subsample of the poll is not weighted correctly, and thus the results could easily be skewed.

The Register Poll has a history of nailing the general elections, but if they miss the boat on the 2014 U.S. Senate primary, their poll is going to lose credibility among Republican campaigns in future elections.

Stormy Weather Tonight

We always talk about how the weather can be a factor in the presidential caucuses, but there is severe weather headed towards Iowa tonight.  High winds, flooding, heavy rains, hail, and tornados are possible.  Polls are open until 9 p.m., so you might want to vote early in the day if you can.

Ground Games

Ernst may be leading in the polls, but the high-profile events with Mitt Romney and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio have been less than stellar as far as attendance is concerned.  Ernst’s campaign is getting help in many facets of the campaign, but the one area that is still lacking is the ground game.  Mark Jacobs and Sam Clovis have invested time, effort, and financial resources into a ground game operation, and if the results tonight don’t match what we have seen in the polls, it’s probably the result of campaigns that actually went about reaching voters the old fashioned way.




Spiker’s Resignation Puts RPI in a Pickle

The decision by Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker to resign his chairmanship in March before the District and State conventions is less than ideal.  The fact that Spiker is surrendering his post to go to work for Rand Paul’s leadership PAC is even more troubling given that Senator Paul isn’t up for re-election and there is no reason to start a presidential campaign until the 2014 elections are in the books.

Spiker is leaving the party at a time when the Iowa GOP actually has work to do.  One of the few duties explicitly spelled out by the Republican Party of Iowa Constitution is for the Iowa GOP to conduct precinct caucuses and county, district, and state conventions.  Local Republican activists do a lot of the planning and organizing of the precinct caucuses and county conventions, but the state party begins to take on a more predominant role once the district and state conventions role around.

Having a chairman step down in the midst of a term has sadly become common in Iowa.  In fact, three of the last four individuals who have chaired the Republican Party of Iowa, Ray Hoffmann, Matt Strawn, and now Spiker, have all resigned in an election year before their term was up.  Needless to say, leadership changes bring staff changes, and in the end, this means that the Republican Party of Iowa once again finds itself in a period of upheaval.

“I am not a big fan of folks resigning before completion of their terms,” Bill Keettel, the chairman of the Johnson County Republican Party, told  “I am not a big fan of ‘coups’ within party organizations.  Our model is the republican “presidential” system, not the parliamentary ‘vote of no confidence’ system.  I was opposed to Matt Strawn being forced out before the end of his term.  I think some of the rancor we have experienced for two years was related to that.  Johnson County was never one of those counties that called for A.J.’s resignation.  If it had come up, I would have opposed it.”

Keettel went onto say, “It is my understanding that A.J. made his decision to resign effective March 29 because he had a job offer that requires him to be free by then.  If so, we can cope with that, although I would rather see him complete his term.  Keettel added, “Good luck to A.J., good luck to the party moving out of a complicated time into a more cooperative time of solid growth and forward motion.”

Spiker’s resignation would be more problematic had the Iowa GOP been tasked with playing a more prominent role in the RNC’s Victory program in the state.  In recent years, the tense relationship between Spiker and Governor Branstad forced the RNC to construct the Victory program around the Branstad campaign and not the Republican Party of Iowa.  Still, Spiker’s decision to go to work for a 2016 presidential campaign before primary day in 2014 puts the party, especially the Republican State Central Committee, in a pickle.

Spiker’s resignation will become official on March 29th, the date of the State Central Committee’s quarterly business meeting.  That meeting should be a time when the State Central Committee is focused on upcoming district and state conventions, but instead, they are going to be distracted by yet another chair election.

Complicating maters is that the March 29th meeting of the State Central Committee will likely be one of the last times the current committee meets.  In April, delegates to the Republican District Conventions will elect new people to represent them on the State Central Committee.

It is no secret that wholesale changes are expected on the governing board of the Republican Party of Iowa.  Thus, if a new chairman is elected at the March 29th meeting, the chairman will answer to an entirely new committee the next time they gather.  The question that many Iowa Republicans are talking about is whether or not the new committee stick with the chairman the old committee elects.

Danny Carroll, the current co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa who was just elected to his post in February, is the only announced candidate seeking the chairmanship of the Republican Party of Iowa.  Carroll told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday that he’s not interested in being an interim chairman and went so far to say, “I will not serve as chairman until the new one is selected,” Carroll told Kathie Obradovich.  While Carroll’s position is understandable, the chairman serves at the pleasure of the Republican State Central Committee, and if the new committee elected in April wants to go in a different direction, there are steps they can take to remove a current chairman.

That’s a messy situation, and frankly, it does nothing but create hard feelings.  At least one current Central Committee member, Jamie Johnson, is advocating for the committee to appoint the Iowa GOP’s co-chair as an interim chairman until the new committee is seated following the state convention in June.  The proposal has merit, but for it to come to fruition, it will need to be supported by a majority of the voting members of the State Central Committee.  That may be difficult with the current makeup of the committee.

Should the State Central Committee elect Carroll, he would likely make staff changes in order to bring in people to run the party that are loyal to him.  With the party already being in a weakened financial state and not playing a major role in the RNC’s Victory program, hiring and firing staff isn’t what the party should be doing, especially considering that a new committee could choose to go in a different direction when it gathers for the first time.

Spiker’s resignation creates turmoil for the current and future State Central Committee, but some Republicans are also just glad that he’s out of the picture.  Bob Haus, a Vice President at a Des Moines public affairs company, admitted that Spiker was never ready for prime time.  “His tenure as chairman was rocky at best.  He put the party in severe financial strain, and his decision to abruptly leave adds the possibility of the party having three chairmen in a 90-day period.  It is hard to build continuity with constant dysfunction.”  Haus added that Spiker’s resignation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the timing is bad.

Spiker’s tenure as Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa was rocky to say the least, but some County GOP leaders do acknowledge that not everything the Spiker administration did was bad.

“The one improvement I can say I noticed right away when the current leadership took over was the improvement in the RPI web site,” said Pottawattamie County GOP Chairman Jeff Jorgenson. “It was a big improvement over what we had earlier. Also, materials for caucus and conventions did get to us a little earlier than in the past, and I appreciated the candidate and caucus training that RPI presented,” he added.

Jorgenson said he didn’t know how much credit Spiker deserves for those things, but acknowledges that they occurred under his leadership.  “I didn’t know A.J. personally, and we really didn’t have much of a working relationship because of our physical location out here on the Western frontier.  Our county party has always been far removed from the state party and the governor’s office,” Jorgenson said.

“I wasn’t all that surprised by the chairman’s resignation. I don’t feel he was doing what needed to be done to fully support Republican candidates and the Republican Party in Iowa. The first thing you need to do as Chairman of RPI is raise money for candidates and the party. The second thing you need to do as chairman is help elect all Republican candidates, including the Governor. That IS what you’re there for, regardless of your principles. The third thing you need to do as chairman is organize, organize, organize… That is the one thing this leadership appeared to be a little better at than previous leadership,” Jorgenson concluded.

The next couple of months could be a bumpy ride for the Republican Party of Iowa.  Electing new a leadership team can easily turn into a soap opera, but the possibility that the Iowa GOP could have two chairman elections in as many months only distracts and divides the party at a time when it needs to be united in advance of the general election.

The Republican State Central Committee is full of different personalities, and while the member of the current committee are well within their rights to fill the vacancy created by Spiker’s resignation, they are charged with looking out for the Iowa GOP’s best interest.  Electing a new chairman two weeks before a new Republican State Central Committee is seated is simply asking for problems.


Photo by Gage Skidmore


Polk County Convention Primer

Republican activists across the state are still worked up over the use of at-large slates by multiple counties to determine delegates for the upcoming District and State Conventions.  Polk County, the largest county in the state, has been the main focus of the debate.  Its original at-large delegate slate was enormous.  It totaled 99 people and will be ratified if the proposed rules to the convention are adopted at the start of Saturday’s county convention.

The Branstad campaign and the Polk County GOP have been surprised by the reaction to the slate.  They reject the notion that they have manipulated delegate-nominating process in Polk County, and they do have a point.  The 2014 rules regarding at-large delegate selection are identical to the rules that Polk County used in 2012.  Just like this year, the at-large delegate slate was affirmed along with the rules.  The main difference, however, is the size of the slates.

The 2012 Polk County at-large delegate slate included 29 people, which was the same size as the 2010 slate.  It’s hard to argue with anyone of the individuals that were awarded at-large delegate spots in 2012.  The list included nine (9) convention officers.  Four (4) honorary delegates that included former Governor Bob Ray, former Lt. Governor Joy Corning, former State Auditor Richard Johnson, and former Congressman Greg Ganske.  The slate also included the four members from Polk County that were Republican Party of Iowa officials, and eleven (11) elected officials.

Where the Polk County GOP and the Branstad campaign are guilty of delegate manipulation is when they decided to enlarge the slate from 29 to 99.  The seventy additional at-large delegates consisted of spouses of elected officials, candidates running for office, members of the professional political class, and current and former members of the Branstad administration or campaign.

The Polk County GOP and Branstad campaign were surprised by the backlash at the proposed slate because they failed to realize that the 2014 Districts and State Conventions are a totally different animal from the conventions of the past. There are two big difference that they failed to realize.  First, activists are more suspicious of delegate stacking and slating after Ron Paul’s supporters used the caucus-to-convention process to wrestle away control of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Republican activist are now fully aware that control of the Republican Party of Iowa can be determined by the makeup of the District and State conventions.  While a number of Republican activists want to elect a new leadership team for the Republican Party of Iowa, just like Governor Branstad does, they want to achieve their goal in a legitimate way.  Using huge at-large slates feels more like a power play than using the traditional route to elect delegates.

The other reason why Republican activists had a negative reaction to the large at-large slate is because the District Convention may determine who is the Republican nominee for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, and the State Convention may ultimately decided who the Republican nomine is going to be for the U.S. Senate.  It is imperative that, should the Republican nominee for Congress or U.S. Senate be determined at convention, who ever wins the nomination must be viewed as the legitimate nominee.  There are likely to be sour-grapes if either of the races are decided at convention, but if there is any hint of favoritism in the delegate selection process, conspiracy theories and bad blood are going to remain throughout the general election campaign.  For Republicans to win either the 3rd District or the U.S. Senate race, Republicans need to be united leaving their convention.

For those of you who are delegates to the Polk County Republican convention, here is a quick run down of what to expect regarding the rules and at-large slate.

After the opening ceremonies of the convention, the first official business will to hear the report from the rules committee.  It is likely that the Polk County GOP Rules Committee will offer its own amendments to the original rules, which presently includes the 99-person at-large slate.  At the very least, they will probably propose replacing “Exhibit A,” the 99-person slate with “Exhibit B,” the proposed 50 person at-large slate.  It is also possible that the Rules Committee could have met and come up with a third alternative.

Knowing all of that, here is some advice to those who care about this issue.

1. Arrive at the convention early, and make sure you are in the auditorium at the start of the convention.

2. If the rules are not amended by one way or another and become ratified, the original slate of 99 at-large delegates will be affirmed.  Thus, if you don’t like the slate, you have to vote against the adoption of the rules.  This could be difficult since a two-thirds vote is required to amend the rules.

3. Pay attention.  It is likely that a number of amendments to the rules will be filed and debated.  If you don’t know what’s going on, ask someone who does.

4. Brush up on your Roberts Rules of Order.  You can get some quick tips here.

5. Some helpful insight from SCC member David Chung on the Rules:

The 75 percent threshold that is established in the convention rules DOES NOT TAKE EFFECT until the rules are approved. The rules are simply a proposal from the rules committee UNTIL they are adopted by the convention. Roberts Rules of Order covers the debate on the rules.

A single delegate can move to amend the rules, and a single delegate must second the motion to amend. Approving amendments to the rules before they are adopted only REQUIRES a majority vote.

Also, the chair cannot unilaterally shut off debate on the rules.  Shutting off debate (unless no one wants to speak) requires a ‘Call for the Question’ and REQUIRES a 2/3 vote.

David was a pain in my a$$ when I served as the State Platform Chair in 2004.  He knows his Roberts Rules and expects them to be followed.  I hated it at the time, but his insistence forced me to purchase a copy of Robert’s Rules and to read and understand them before the state convention that year.  Whenever Roberts Rules come up I groan, and think of David.


See you on Saturday morning.


RNC Continues to Tinker with 2016 Presidential Primary Process

In a country and state that seems to be more divided and partisan than ever, it is refreshing that there is one issue one which Iowa Republicans and Democrats can find agreement – our First-in-the-Nation status.  Iowa’s prominent role in the selection process of each party’s presidential nominee isn’t just something about which we agreed, it is actually something that we work on together to protect and preserve.

Even though Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status appears to be secure for 2016, there are always threats and challenges that must be dealt with.  If you want to see an Iowa political operative get nervous, just print a headline like the one we saw yesterday from CNN.  “RNC to Overhaul 2016 Primary Process,” the headline said.  It also doesn’t help matters that the RNC committee making these recommendations doesn’t include anyone from Iowa or South Carolina.

The article details the work of a special subcommittee that was appointed this fall and tasked with the job of reforming the nominating process.  The good news is that the committee protects the carve-out for the four-early contests – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.  The committee is also addressing what has caused volatility in the nominating calendar in recent cycles – large states that move up the date of their contests, which forces the four early states to move the dates of their caucuses or primaries even earlier.

To prevent this from happening, the committee is proposing any state that attempts to hold its nominating contests before March 1 be penalized.  The penalty would significantly reduce the number of delegates the state is awarded at the national convention.  States that violate the RNC nomination calendar would be stripped of all their delegates except for nine.   If a smaller state violates the rules, the number of delegates would be reduced to one-third the size of their original delegate allotment.  In all cases, no state would have more than nine delegates should they choose to violate the RNC’s nomination calendar.

This all sounds well and good, but as we have seen in the past, punishing a large state isn’t always that easy to do.  Florida violated the RNC calendar by moving up its 2012 presidential primary, but it also violated the RNC rules by awarding its delegates in a winner take all fashion.  Florida lost half of its delegates for messing with the nomination calendar, but it wasn’t penalized for how it awarded its delegates.

The idea to increase the punishment from 50 percent of delegates to all but nine delegates adds more teeth to the punishment, but penalizing a state like Florida is not easy for the GOP to do.  First, the RNC, the eventual nominee, and other national committees need to raise a lot of money in Florida.  Second, Florida is a key battle ground state.  So, while the RNC has been willing to penalize Florida, it would never want to make this important state too upset, which means states like Florida will still continue to throw their weight around in order to get what they want.

The committee’s work on the calendar issues is time well spent, but the other topics the group is looking into raise some concerns.

One of the main objectives of the committee is to condense the time it takes to nominate a candidate.  The RNC doesn’t wants primary contests to officially begin until February, but it wants it all concluded by the end of May.  The hope is that the Republican National Convention can be moved up to June or July, which would allow the nominee more time to spend general election dollars.

The schedule is even more condensed when you realize that all delegates to the national convention must be submitted to the RNC 35 days in advance of the convention.  If the national convention is held in late June, all delegates must be selected by late May.  That may sound reasonable, but it means in Iowa precinct caucuses, county conventions, district conventions, and the State convention all must occur in less than 120 days.  That’s a lot of activity is a short period of time.

The committee also wants the RNC to have control over the presidential debates.  If there is something that should make activists nervous, it’s this.  Were there too many presidential debates in 2012?  Yes, but letting the RNC control the debate process isn’t necessary the solution Republicans should be looking for because all of the changes the committee is contemplating give more advantages to whomever is the national frontrunner.

Limiting the number of debates helps the frontrunner for the nomination by not having to have to deal with his or her challengers.  Compressing the primary calendar also helps the frontrunner because it makes fundraising more important than organizing.  A condensed nomination calendar will make it more difficult for lesser-known candidates to raise money between contests.

The RNC committee has also suggested penalizing a candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate. The frontrunner in the race already has a major advantage as far as debates are concerned.  As we have seen over the past couple of election cycles, the frontrunner gets plenty of questions and time to make their case in the debates, while the challengers only get mere seconds to speak.   Another advantage the frontrunner has is that if they choose not to participate in a particular debate, there is a good probability that it will get cancelled.

This happened in Iowa in advance of the 2008 caucuses.  Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani refused to participate in a primetime Fox News Debate in partnership with the Republican Party of Iowa, but instead, they chose to participate in the Des Moines Register’s Debate.  The Fox News debate was cancelled due to a lack of participation.

The RNC subcommittee also wants to regulate what networks hold the debate and which members of their news teams moderate the debates.  This seems a little heavy handed and appears to be an awful lot of regulating for Republicans.  Perhaps the best way to regulate the debates is to put a cap on the number of debates a network can conduct over the entire span of the primary process.  The RNC could also limit the number of debates allowed in a particular state.

This may reduce the number of debates in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but it would also eliminate two different news networks conducting debates in the same state within days of each other.  For instance, in the 10 days between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries in 2012, both Fox News and CNN held major debates in the Palmetto State.  Fox News also had an additional televised candidate forum in South Carolina during that timeframe.

The final sprint towards the finish line in South Carolina was dictated by debates and TV appearances, not campaign events.  That’s unfair to the candidates who actually want to go out and campaign for votes, or maybe even bypass a state altogether to focus on a different contest.  These back-to-back debates may go away if networks know in advance that they are going to be limited in how many debates they are allowed to conduct.

When it comes to debates, the first place that the RNC should put its foot down is on debates that will not be nationally televised in their entirety.  The RNC could also cut down on the debates held by lesser-known entities like Bloomberg or Univision.  Major networks and cable news channels should be allowed to conduct these events because more people will likely watch them.  That doesn’t prevent candidates from utilizing other networks to reach voters, but if push comes to shove, the candidates should be debating on the networks or major cable news networks like Fox News or CNN.

Making the nomination process run better is an admirable goal, but the RNC would be wise to focus the problems that it can control, like calendar issues, and not involve itself with who is and is not allowed to moderate a debate.  Putting a cap on the number of debates an organization can organize would be helpful, but the RNC must not do things that give the frontrunner for the nomination any more advantages than they already have.

Presidential debates have becomes an important part of the nominating process in America, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Letting the candidates duke it out on stage against their Republican opponents is really what voters want and need to see.



Tea Party Conventioneers: “Run Sarah Run”

Sarah Palin BWBelow is Sarah Palin’s keynote speech to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville from last night.  Palin began her speech by saying, “I want to welcome the people watching on CSPAN, you might not have been welcome in the healthcare proceedings, but you are welcome in the Tea Party Movement.”

Share your comments on her speech below.

Photo by Dave Davidson