Top Ron Paul Campaign Aides Found Guilty On All Counts

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Photo by Dave Davidson –

As Donald Trump was putting an end to the primary phase of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign this week, a federal court concluded its criminal trial against three Republican campaign operatives for their underhanded and shady dealings in the previous presidential contest.

Jurors found Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign chairman, John Tate, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign manager, and Dimitri Kesari, Paul’s deputy campaign manager in 2012, guilty of charges ranging for conspiracy to causing false records and campaign expenditures. The trio of national political operatives who once made up Paul’s inner political circle was tried in federal court in Iowa and is now awaiting sentencing.

The scheme involved paying Kent Sorenson, a former Iowa legislator and chairman of Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign, more than $73,000 to switch his allegiance to Ron Paul just days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.   As a State Senator, Sorenson would be in violation of Iowa Senate rules if he accepted financial compensation from the Paul campaign, so the high-ranking Paul operatives concocted a scheme that paid Sorenson through vendors who did no work for the Paul campaign.

Sorenson resigned from the Iowa Senate in the fall of 2013. The following August, he pled guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report expenditures and one count of obstruction of justice for concealing. Sorenson is still awaiting sentencing for his part of the scheme, but his cooperation with federal prosecutors will now likely get him a more lenient sentence. Sorenson faces up to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the cover up.

The entire ordeal spans parts of two presidential campaigns and lasted almost six years. was the first to break the details of Sorenson’s involvement with the three senior members of Ron Paul’s campaign. While Sorenson was already dealing with an Iowa Senate Ethics complaint stemming from his financial compensation from the Bachmann campaign and the theft of a database belonging to an Iowa Homeschool organization, it was his involvement with the Paul campaign that ultimately brought him down.

The scandal has been national news and has even caused problems in the 2016 Republican race for president. Benton and Tate led a Super PAC that was supportive of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s bid before he dropped out of the race. Benton is also currently involved in a pro-Trump Super PAC. Needless to say, being convicted of multiple crimes will make it impossible to maintain his involvement in any political committee.

While was responsible for shedding light on this scandal, justice would have never been served, and thus the credibility of our political process would not have been preserved, had it not been for Dennis Fusaro, the primary source of all the evidence the entire case was built upon.

Fusaro was Ron Paul’s national field director in 2008. He was also the former Executive Director of Iowans for Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Committee. He had worked with all those involved in the cover-up, including Sorenson, from his time working in Iowa politics.

“This is not a happy moment for me or anyone concerned with true Liberty,” Fusaro said after being reached for comment after the guilty verdict. “I tried to get Jesse Benton to come clean on his own and clean it up internally, but instead I was mocked and insulted by him.”

“The cover-up is always worse than the crime,” Fusaro added. “They could have told the truth to the voters of Iowa that Kent Sorenson had been paid or offered payment to endorse Ron Paul. They could have thumbed their noses at the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and made a First Amendment stand over the right to associate for Kent Sorenson. Instead they chose to take on the federal government.”

Another integral figure in exposing this scheme was former State Senator Sandy Greiner. While Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate wished to quietly sweep Sorenson’s transgressions under the rug, it was Greiner who stood alone against her own party and provided the critical fourth vote on the Senate Ethics Committee to appoint an independent investigator to look into Sorenson’s dealings with both presidential campaigns.

On Facebook on Thursday afternoon, Greiner referred to the situation as, “The darkest days of my entire Legislative career.” Greiner added, “I really felt an investigation by Independent Counsel was the only way to clear the air. I take no joy in the outcome.”

After the Senate Ethics Committee voted in favor of appointing independent counsel who would have subpoena power, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court appointed Des Moines attorney Mark E. Weinhardt to investigate. It was his 556-page report that came out in October of 2013, just two months after broke the story, that lead forced Sorenson to resign. Soon after, federal authorities charged those involved with scheme for their involvement.

For many Iowans, this story began and ended with Kent Sorenson.   While the this entire case involved him, Thursday’s guilty verdicts prove that the scandal was much bigger than just a State Senator getting paid under the table for an endorsement. While it may have seemed at times that there was an effort to “get” Sorenson, the truth of the matter is that he was the only way expose the corruption in at the highest levels of a presidential campaign.

Not only has justice been served, but hopefully the integrity of the political process has also been preserved.




Paul Family Reunion Scheduled for a Federal Court Room in Iowa?

Rand Paul Mason City 2014 (359)-X3According to recent reports, Ron Paul is likely to be headed to Iowa soon, but the trip is not to campaign for his son, Rand, who is mounting a 2016 presidential campaign. Federal prosecutors may call the elder Paul to testify in a the case involving Jesse Benton, a political operative who served as Paul’s campaign chairman in 2012, and is married to his grand daughter.

Benton was indicted in August on charges of conspiracy, obstructing an investigation, and submitting false reports to the Federal Election Commission. He is also charged with providing the FBI with false information. All of the charges stem from the efforts the Paul campaign used to lure Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson away from Michelle Bachmann’s campaign in the final days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

The campaign paid Sorenson $73,000 in wire transfers through a Maryland business named ICT, Inc. The move was necessary because, under the rules of the Iowa Senate, Sorenson could not be compensated by a presidential campaign. In satisfying Sorenson’s need to not be paid by a campaign committee, the Paul campaign also violated FEC laws for not being forthright in disclosing that it was indeed paying Sorenson for his support and work on the campaign.

Before the indictment, Benton was leading the Super PAC in support of Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign along with John Tate, who has also been indicted for the same violations. Tate served as Ron Paul’s campaign manger in 2012, and before that, he headed the Campaign for Liberty. It was reported that Benton had relinquished his control of the America’s Liberty PAC in order to deal with his legal defense, but the group’s website still lists Tate as it’s founder and president.

Benton’s mother-in-law (and Ron Paul’s daughter), Lori Pyeatt, is also expected to accompany her father to Des Moines when the trial begins in a few weeks. Pyeatt served as the treasurer of her father’s 2012 campaign.   Federal prosecutors reportedly have told the judge that they plan to call for the former congressman and presidential candidate and his daughter to testify.

Also expected to make an appearance during Benton and Tate’s trial are Doug Stafford and Mike Rothfeld. Stafford was Rand Paul’s Chief-of-Staff in the U.S. Senate before becoming the chief strategist for his 2016 campaign. Before being part of the Paul political machine, Stafford worked for the National Right to Work committee.

Rothfeld is the founder of Virginia-based Saber Communications, which specializes in mail, phone, and internet communications and fundraising. Like Stafford, Rothfeld has a deep roots with the National Right to Work Committee where he focused on direct mail, phone, and internet marketing. Rothfeld and Stafford are key figures in Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.

Needless to say, anytime members of your campaign team or political machine are in federal court is a bad time for a candidate. The fact that this not only involves some of Rand Paul’s key operatives, but also his family, means things could get pretty messy for Paul who is currently polling at 3.5 percent nationally.

Paul has only campaigned in Iowa for twelve days this calendar year. His campaign’s presence in Iowa is much different from that of his father’s past two presidential bids. While poor poll number and struggles raising money for the campaign are reasons for concern, Paul also has to worry about his re-election bid in his home state of Kentucky. Paul has to be careful that the legal troubles of some of his close associates and family don’t make life difficult for him on the campaign trail. If he’s not careful, he could be the next candidate out the door.

Photo bt Dave Davidson –

Paul Blasts Trump and Bush on Iowa State Visit

Rand PaulI’ve seen Kentucky Senator Rand Paul speak numerous times, but never have I seem him as comfortable in front of an audience as he was on Friday night at Iowa State University. Paul drew over 450 college students on the eve of the big Iowa/Iowa State game. There were a few regular people in attendance as well, but the kids probably call them “non-trads” instead of regular folks.

Here is what stood out to me.

New line of attack on Trump: Eminent Domain

Paul is no fan of Donald Trump’s. That was clear in the last debate, but he also made it clear by sending the following tweet right before he took the stage in Ames. “What does it say about GOP when a three-and-a-half term governor with a successful record of creating jobs bows out as a reality star leads in the polls?” Paul was referring to former Texas Governor Rick Perry who dropped out of the presidential race a few hours earlier.

In his remarks, Paul criticized Trump for using eminent domain to seize property to build a casino on in Atlantic City. After his remarks Paul told reporters, “It’s not only the way that he has built them [casinos], but he’s on record saying that the Kelo case, he’s 100 percent for it. You won’t find one conservative in America that knows what the Kelo case is and is for it. It is an anathema to those in the Tea Party. It is an anathema to those who are property rights advocates. And he say’s he’s 100 percent for it. Things like that will add up. Ultimately people will say that he can call people fat and stupid, but he also doesn’t support property rights.

No mention of 9-11 on September 11th

During his remarks Paul found time to mention the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, yet on the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Paul said nothing about them. I understand and appreciate Paul’s arguments against government and surveillance, but ignoring the 9-11 anniversary while talking about other smaller tragedies seemed a little out of line.

Paul thinks Jeb is a hypocrite when it comes to pot

Paul preached a message of privacy, non-interventionism, and relaxed marijuana laws that the students responded favorably to. Paul used the hypocrisy of Jeb Bush to make his point on weakening drug laws by reminding the audience that Bush has admitted to smoking pot in high school but now doesn’t even support medical marijuana. Paul’s point is that the enforcement of current marijuana laws is unfair to minorities and those who live in poor neighborhoods because the cops are patrolling those neighborhoods, not elite boarding schools like the one Jeb Bush attended. Paul also contends that it’s wrong to jail or fine parents who simply are trying to do all that they can to help their child deal with seizures by using cannabis oil.

An important number to remember: 15

Paul hasn’t made much of a footprint in Iowa over the summer, but he did boast on Friday night that his campaign has over 300 “Stand with Rand” chapters at colleges and universities around the country. In Iowa, the Paul campaign is organized on 15 campuses. With the caucuses being held in early February instead of during Christmas break in the beginning of January, Paul’s strategy to organize college campuses could pay big dividends come caucus time.

Common Sense Education Reforms 

Paul said on Friday night that he views a college education as a business expense, and thus someone should be able to write off the expense on their taxes over their working lifetime. Not only is it a great way to counter Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ call to make college tuition another government entitlement, but it also just makes sense.

Paul also talked about how colleges and universities should be using modern technology to lower the cost of tuition. Paul said that if there is a professor out there that has mastered how to teach calculus, then why not have them teach every student in America by the use of the internet and video. You would still need a professor in the classroom but if someone has it figured out, by all means let them teach everyone. Again, another common sense educational proposal.


The Republican Quest for Authenticity

Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, John KasichI spend an inordinate amount of time talking to reporters about the presidential race every day of the week. Twitter is always a good tool to see what’s trending out there politically, but so are the reporters that frequently call my cell phone.

The current topic of conversation is the rise of the political outsiders, Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina and the demise of candidates like Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. We live in an instant gratification society, and political news coverage is no different.   The second the first presidential debate was in the books, the news media was ready for the polls to come out to announce who won and who lost.

The national media does a good job of telling us who said what or what the candidates did on a certain day, but what they typically miss is the broader themes that are beginning to appear in the 2016 presidential campaign. For example, the media has just now figured out that voters have a hankering for a presidential candidate that that will challenge the status quo in Washington, and it doesn’t even matter if that person has ever held political office.

Many in the media act as if this is some kind of new phenomenon. The reality is that what’s going in the 2016 presidential contest isn’t new at all.

  • In 1988, Pat Robertson, a former Baptist minister who founded the Christian Broadcasting Network, finished ahead of a sitting Vice President in the 1988 Iowa caucuses.
  • In 1996, Pat Buchanan, a former communications director for President Reagan, defeated Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary in 1996 and finished a close second to him in Iowa.
  • In 2000, Steve Forbes, a well-known businessman and magazine publisher, became a serious challenger to the presumptive Republican nominee in George W. Bush in Iowa.
  • In 2008 and 2012, Congressman Ron Paul mounted a serious challenge in Iowa by challenging the status quo in his final two presidential runs.

In every presidential cycle, there has been a political outsider who has run on being a true change agent. This is nothing new. The list above only includes those who actually had some success. There are plenty of other names that could be added like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer and Herman Cain.

The caucus history books contain plenty of evidence that there has long been a desire in Iowa for nontraditional candidates. It should also not come as a surprise that there is an even greater appetite for a political outsider after John McCain and Mitt Romney did so poorly against Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Republicans want to win, and after seeing the “guys who can win” fail miserably in the last two elections, there is no desire to go down that road again.

This dynamic in the GOP race explains why someone like Jeb Bush has struggled to catch on. He has all the machinery and money a campaign could every hope for but what he lacks is something he cannot buy – grassroots support. We have also seen other candidates who once led in the polls eventually falter.

There was a time when Scott Walker led in polls nationally, not just here in Iowa. Walker is perceived to be a conservative-minded reformer who is willing to stand his ground on tough issues. Walker should be a natural fit in the current political environment, yet he has seen his support in Iowa plummet from 20 percent in early August to 11 percent today.

What could explain such a precipitous drop in the polls? Some claim it’s due to all the media attention that Trump receives on a daily basis. I contend it’s related to his performance in the Fox News debate. Walker’s debate performance was fine in the sense that he didn’t screw anything up, but he also didn’t display any signs that he’s the change agent that people perceived him as being before the debate.

Besides finding change agent, conservatives are also looking for a winning horse they can back. Again, Walker should be a natural choice, but articles like the one that appeared in the Washington Post on Monday clearly indicate that Walker’s not running as a conservative. The Post story includes a passage about Walker reassuring a wealthy donor that he will not push a social agenda as president.

It has always been my opinion that if Scott Walker ran for president as a conservative, he would find plenty of success. As we are now seeing he’s not running as a strong reform minded conservative and that is severely hurting him in a state like Iowa. In Iowa it’s not good enough to have the right position on an issue, evangelical voters here are looking for conviction on their issues, and they are not seeing that from Walker.

Another candidate who should be thriving in the current political environment is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Paul was supposed to be the most interesting candidate in the field as far as ideology is concerned, but his presence in Iowa has vanished along with his standing in the polls. Regardless of your opinion of Paul, it was expected that he would play hard in Iowa, a state where his father cultivated libertarian leaning activists for the past eight years.

Rand Paul isn’t even scheduled to visit the Iowa State Fair. Since June 1st, Paul has only spent four days in Iowa, and the last time he was here was August 1st for a couple of low-key events in eastern Iowa. In the Fox News debate, Paul chose to go after Donald Trump, which may be popular with the media, but it doesn’t really make you appear to be much of a change agent. Paul is the last person who should be chastising Trump for not being a traditional Republican because the same can be said of all the new people who his father got to caucus and participate in party activities in Iowa.

The 2016 Republican race for president hasn’t been all that difficult to read. Republicans are anxious to occupy the White House again, but unlike previous election years they are not going to be swayed by the conventional wisdom of the establishment or surrender to an establishment candidate’s large bankroll either.

Despite the mood of the Republican electorate, it’s surprising how many of the 2016 presidential candidates are taking steps to become more like the failed nominees of the past than something more authentic. One doesn’t need to be spastic and ultra conservative to be authentic. While the media focuses on a candidate like Trump, John Kasich is also gaining momentum.

I would argue that Republicans are looking for authenticity more than anything else in 2016. Some candidates have figured that out. The others are falling in the polls.

Rand Paul’s Iowa Campaign Should Make the Rest of the GOP Field Nervous

Rand and Craig

As the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has only attended two multi-candidate events in Iowa this year – the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event in April and the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner in May.

With a field of 16 Republican presidential candidates, it’s easy to forget about candidates when they are not campaigning in your state, and skipping out on a number of high-profile evens can make it seem like the candidates who are not attending are not all that active in Iowa. Yet, just because a candidate isn’t taking the time to share a stage with their many competitors doesn’t mean they are not laying the groundwork for a formidable Iowa caucus campaign.

Senator Rand Paul isn’t your typical Republican. His libertarian leanings and focus on the federal government’s intrusion in people’s lives sets him apart from most, if not the rest of the huge field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination. Paul might not be riding the so-called circuit like his many of his contemporaries seem content in doing, but make no mistake, he is running a formidable caucus campaign in Iowa.

Paul has made five trips to Iowa since officially launching his bid for the Republican nomination for president in April. While Paul might not be showing up at every multi-candidate event in the state, he’s campaigned in 19 counties across the state in 2015. That’s just six fewer than Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum who have visited 25 counties in Iowa this calendar year. What’s more impressive is how well orchestrated the Paul campaign events are.

Last week, I attended Paul’s campaign event in Poweshiek County. The event was interesting to me for a number of reasons. First, Craig Lang, the former President of the Iowa Farm Bureau, hosted the event at one of his son’s farms. Second, the event was in Poweshiek County, a place I called home eight years. Third, the event was on a gravel road. A presidential event in the middle of the day basically in the middle of nowhere is always going to get me to circle the event on my calendar.

I was impressed with the turnout. About 50 or so people attended the event, and even though this wasn’t your typical campaign event, the mechanics the Paul campaign is deploying in Iowa was easy to see. First, the Paul campaign is wisely using Eventbrite to ticket their campaign events. Getting people to pre-register only makes the task of collecting data from the event easier. The event was well staffed, but the event itself was entirely reminiscent of Steve Forbes’ campaign events in the 2000 race.

As Paul arrived to the venue and talked briefly to the event host and posed for pictures with the Lang family, Steve Grubbs, who signed on with Paul a year ago to help lead his effort in Iowa, had everyone in attendance line up so they could meet the candidate personally and pose for a quick snapshot taken by Grubbs himself. After shaking hands and posing for pictures, the event kicked off with a video of Paul’s wife Kelley, who talked about how they met and the life they have together. Paul then took center stage, delivered his remarks, and took some questions. Before the event closed, Grubbs grabbed the microphone and enticed people to join the campaign, and if they pledged their support today, they got a snazzy Rand Paul Iowa lapel pin.

This isn’t just similar to what Forbes did back in 1999, it’s exactly the same thing. Heck, Paul is even out there pushing a smart 14.5 percent flat tax proposal. Something else that was similar was the campaign literature. The Forbes campaign was always flush with books, handouts, signage, and bumper stickers. I was just standing around with my camera and a staffer came up and gave me 20-page pamphlet on that explains who Senator Paul is and what his plan is to, “Defeat the Washington Machine and Unleash the American Dream.”

Last July, I wrote the following about Grubbs going to work for Paul:

  • If Grubbs understands one thing really well about caucus campaigns, it’s the mechanics of getting people to attend events and then getting people to volunteer to get involved in a campaign.  This is why Paul’s hiring of Steve Grubbs is a brilliant move.  Should Rand Paul decide to run for president in 2016, he can’t simply run the same style of campaign his father ran in Iowa in 2008 and 2012.
  • By hiring Grubbs, the Paul political operation is acknowledging that they understand that they have to approach Iowa differently than Ron Paul did.  There was nothing wrong with Ron Paul’s campaign, but Rand Paul has more opportunities to expand his father’s existing network.
  • While I think getting Grubbs is a brilliant move for Rand Paul, I think it’s equally important that he got him onboard early.  Grubbs can help Paul shape his approach to Iowa, which is incredibly important.  Grubbs was on-board for Forbes early for the 2000 race, and he was able to make a big impact.  Grubbs was brought on board late for Herman Cain in 2012, and thus his impact wasn’t as great.  I’ll tell you this, had Grubbs been onboard with Cain early on and if Cain had followed his advice, I think Cain could have really done something in Iowa.

You can already see the positive influence that Grubbs has had on Paul’s campaign. The media often wonders if someone like Paul could be a mainstream Republican candidate because of his views, but I think what makes a candidate mainstream is how they approach a campaign and if they are capable of having a broad audience. Paul has succeeded in doing both in Iowa, and you are kidding yourself if you don’t think that Grubbs is partly responsible.

I’ve attended campaign events for most of the Republican candidates, and most of them are pretty laid back affairs, which if fine, but Rand Paul’s campaign events are better than anything I witnessed in the last caucus cycle and are at the top of the class this cycle.

Sometimes I think that too many Iowans put too much focus on a candidate doing the “Full Grassley,” which means campaigning in each of the state’s 99 counties. Hitting all 99 counties isn’t what matters. Just ask Michele Bachmann. She made it through all 99 in 2012. What matters is what you do with the time that you spend in each county.

I’ve been to campaign events where the candidate doesn’t even ask for people’s support. I’ve been to events where I’ve walked out wondering what the purpose of the event was. Sure, you’re running for president and this is an opportunity for people to kick the tires, but what good is it for the campaign if they don’t know who was there and they didn’t go through the process to see if the attendees will support them or not?

Paul’s campaign events, besides being really well attended, serve a number of purposes. First, they create an opportunity for people to get to meet him via the photo line and question and answer period. Second, the event educates people about his life and history. Third, each event ends with a strong pitch to join the campaign. If a campaign isn’t doing those things, it’s simply wasting time.

With Paul, I find myself occasionally speculating that he isn’t as active as maybe he should be. Yet seeing his campaign in action last Thursday just proves that his Iowa operation is a well-oiled machine. Paul also delivered a message at the event that most, if not all, Republicans would be supportive of and rally behind.

The question for Paul has always been whether he can grow his support beyond what his father did in Iowa in 2008 and 2012. I think that’s easily doable and likely to happen if he keeps running the type of campaign he currently is in Iowa. That’s good news for Paul, and it’s something that should make the rest of the field very nervous.


Photos by the one and only Craig Robinson –



The barn welcoming attendees.


Snap Grubbs
Camera man Steve Grubbs
Senator Paul learning about the Lang farm operation.
Craig Lang and Senator Paul walk past my AWESOME 2008 Toyota Camry!


Is it the Iowa or Idaho Caucuses? Rand Paul seems Confused

This morning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign team posted the following graphic on Facebook encouraging people to record an endorsement video.  The graphic shows the outline of the state of Iowa, but the text of the Facebook post reads, “Idaho, tell us why you stand with Rand!”

Iowa- Idoho


The Facebook post was posted 16 hours ago and has 57 likes.  As of time of publication it was still on Paul’s Facebook page.  I plan to meet up with Paul at his Brooklyn event later today, I hope it’s in Brooklyn, Iowa and not Brooklyn, New York.

Perhaps Rand’s campaign team should take the quiz that Boise State Public Radio put together last year titled, “Do you know the difference between Idaho and Iowa?”  It’s a pretty good quiz, and the only question that I struggled with was, “Idaho or Iowa: Which state’s governor won a tight-jeans contest?  I picked Idaho because had Terry Branstad competed in a tight jeans contest I’m sure I would have heard about it.

For a quiz put together by Boise staters, it makes Iowa a whole lot more interesting that Idaho.

No Reason for Jeb to Run from Iowa – Lincoln Dinner Roundup

JebLDThe clear winner on Saturday night was the Republican Party of Iowa, which hosted eleven 2016 presidential candidates at its annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Nearly 1,400 Iowa Republicans attended the event, and 38 county Republican organizations purchased tables at the event, a record level of participation.

Saturday’s dinner could have easily been a five-hour-long speech fest, but the Iowa GOP wisely limited the candidates to a strict 10-minute speech allotment, and besides the 2016 candidates, Senator Chuck Grassley was the only elected official allowed to take the stage. The efficient event ran ahead of schedule, and the candidate receptions afterwards were once again a big hit.

All the candidates did well for themselves on Saturday night, but I thought five candidates stood out for various reasons.

No Reason for Jeb to Run from Iowa.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush dominated the headlines last week, but not in a good way. On Saturday night, I thought Bush was one of the clear winners. While his speech seemed rushed, and thus he spoke over many would-be applause lines, touting his accomplishments as Governor achieved an important objective.

Despite all that’s been said or written about Bush, his record in Florida is full of conservative accomplishments. If anyone in the 2012 race should proudly run on his record it is Jeb Bush. Bush’s light itinerary in Iowa has left activists to start making assumptions about where he stands on a multitude of issues. Re-educating Iowans on his conservative credentials is crucial to his success.

It was smart for Bush to tout his efforts to cut taxes and reduce the size of Florida’s government, while increasing the state’s credit rating. But Bush also reminded Iowans that he has a record of protecting the most vulnerable, including the unborn. He also reminded Iowans that he received an “A” rating from the NRA, in part because, as Governor, he signed into law concealed carry and stand your ground legislation.

While his delivery was rushed, Bush’s content was excellent on Saturday night. More impressive was the time he spent in his reception room meeting Iowa activists who attended the event. Bush was one of the last candidates to leave on Saturday night. He essentially waited until he shook every hand. He also had a light moment with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who popped in to say hello. Bush exited at 9:55 p.m., a half hour after the receptions were set to end. He did himself a lot of good on Saturday night.

Hear Carly Roar.

Carly Fiorina didn’t provide any new content on Saturday night. It was evident that she didn’t need to. It’s clear that Fiorina has perfected her stump speech, but the Lincoln Dinner provided her with a tailor made audience. Just like Texas Senator Ted Cruz gets conservative crowds riled up in Iowa, Fiorina found the sweet spot on Saturday night. How good was it? Well, even having the microphone cut off mid-sentence seemed to help Fiorina. The crowd groaned when the microphone was cut off and the music started playing because her allotted ten minutes were over.

Yes, Fiorina was quick to criticize Hillary Clinton, and her best line of the night referenced Bill Clinton’s extracurricular activities with a White House intern named Monica Lewinski. However, for every clever on-liner, she is also provides a plenty of serious content. Iowa Republicans are not just amused by the only female on the stage, they are taking her very seriously, and many already have her on their short list of candidates.

Was Walker a One-Hit Wonder?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker burst onto the scenes in Iowa back in January with a passionate speech at Congressman Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit. Since then, I’ve now seen Walker speak at three different events. Walker’s content is fine, but gone is the enthusiasm he initially had.

Walker scores his points by being relatable to Republican caucus goers. On the video screens as Walker took the stage, there was a photo of him and his brother holding an Iowa flag when he was seven-years-old. Rarely does Walker miss an opportunity to remind people that he lived in Iowa for a few years during his childhood.

Walker’s working class background also makes him relatable to the voters he’s trying to win over. In the past, Walker has talked about shopping at Kohl’s department store or reminisced about his time working at a local McDonalds. On Saturday night, Walker’s blue collar roots were on display in his hospitality suite after the event.

Walker went all out. In addition to having a Harley Davidson on display and disc jockeys playing music and handing out door prizes, Walker and his staff adorned themselves in red aprons and passed out cold beer, Wisconsin cheese, and ice cream. Walker’s room was a popular spot on Saturday night. His speech might not have fired up the audience, but he seems a natural when it comes to his ability to connect to Iowans in a casual setting.

Rick Perry, My 2016 Dark Horse.

I thought Perry benefitted by being the forth candidate to take the stage on Saturday night. The three candidates who spoke before him, Rick Santorum, Dr. Ben Carson, and Bobby Jindal, offered a gloomy forecast compared to Perry’s new, optimistic outlook for America.

Speeches like the one Perry gave on Saturday night are critical for him, because it proved that the problems he experienced in his 2012 campaign were an aberration. If Perry continues to impress people on the stump, he is someone who could do incredibly well in Iowa. Perry appeals to a wide cross-section of voters in Iowa, and has a stellar list of accomplishments to brag about. If one of the current frontrunners stumbles, a guy like Rick Perry may be the biggest benefactor.

Rand Runs Away With the Day.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul flexed some organization muscle on Saturday by putting on some impressive events in Southeast Iowa, a place where not many candidates spend much time campaigning. Paul drew big crowds in Burlington, Fairfield, and Pella before making his way to Des Moines for the Lincoln Dinner. Paul didn’t work the crowd or host a reception afterwards, but he gave an interesting speech, and no matter how you slice it, he had a heck of a day in Iowa.

Quick Hits

Rick Santorum was the first presidential candidate to speak on Saturday night. Santorum didn’t earn much reaction from the audience, but to be honest it was a pretty tough room. Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, and Lindsey Graham got the most response out of the audience.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has done well with large audiences as of late. Of all the candidates, it was Jindal who used the opportunity to talk about religious liberty, which drew the most applause in his speech.

It’s hard to believe, but South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has been an audience favorite at events in Iowa this year. Graham is incredibly funny, but he also has a way to quickly pivot and be dead serious. Graham gave the perfect defense for George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, saying that it’s President Obama who has squandered all of the advances that were made with the surge.

The audience really tuned in to Dr. Ben Carson, who used the opportunity to make the case why it’s not necessary to nominate someone with a lot of political experience. People like Carson, but he needs to do more to sell himself to them.

Donald Trump, scored some points by saying that it was a shame that they cut Carly Fiorina’s microphone because she went over her time allotment. Trump seems on track to make a June announcement, which he says will really surprise people. Most people will be surprised if he actually runs this time.

Former New York Governor George Pataki is the longest of long shots, but he’s taking his 2016 candidacy very seriously. Pataki seemed all set to run back in 2008, but was likely forced out by Rudy Giuliani tying up all the New York donors. Pataki would have been my pick to surprise in 2008, but eight years later, he has an even more difficult path to the Republican nomination.

Photo by Dave Davidson –

Sen. Rand Paul Latest to Confirm Attendance to Faith and Freedom Coalition Event

randcpKentucky Senator Rand Paul is the latest 2016 presidential hopeful to confirm his attendance at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2015 Spring Kickoff.

While there have been other multi-candidate events in Iowa this year, this is the first time Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have participated. Even though Saturday’s event will not feature former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson, it will be the largest, most complete roster of Republican presidential hopefuls thus far in 2015 to speak at an event in Iowa.

Paul formally launched his presidential campaign earlier this month. During his announcement tour of early states, Paul was asked about his views on abortion by the Associated Press. Paul told the AP, “The thing is about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you’re this or this or that, or you’re hard and fast (on) one thing or the other.” He later would add, “Life is special and deserves protection.”

When asked about his position on abortion again, Paul fired back saying, “Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus?” You go back and go ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s okay with killing a 7-pound baby that’s just not born yet,” Paul told reporters. “Ask her when life begins, and ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.”

Wasserman Schultz quickly responded, “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”

Paul then concluded, “It sounds like her answer is yes, that she’s okay with killing a 7-pound baby.”

Senator Paul has been criticized for being a little prickly with the media, but his willingness to flip the script on the abortion issue has been celebrated by conservative Republicans. Not only has Wasserman Schultz now been asked to defend her abortion-up until-birth stance, but Hillary Clinton has also been asked to spell out her position on late-term abortions, which she refused to do.

Senator Paul’s sudden interest in attending this weekend’s Faith and Family Coalition event makes perfect political sense. While other candidates may be respected for their dedication to the life movement, one can’t underscore how important Paul’s victory in the media last week ultimately was. Polling has consistently showed that a clear majority of Americans oppose late term abortions. Liberal Democrats like Wasserman Schultz want to focus the abortion debate on contraception and rape and incest exceptions, but when asked a simple question about when a life should be protected, they are forced to espouse an unpopular position.

Saturday’s Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event is shaping up to be an outstanding event. Besides the impressive roster of official and potential candidates, the issues of abortion, religious liberty, and gay marriage have all been in the headlines as of late. If should make for a fascinating evening in Waukee on Saturday.

Below are the details for the event.
For tickets, please click here.

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Photo by Dave Davidson –

Rand, W, and National High-Five Day – The Weekly Round Up

o-HIGH-FIVE-facebookRand Stands for Term Limits, but Run for As Many Offices As You Wish

The Des Moines Register published an article about the potential problems with Senator Rand Paul running for re-election to the Senate while simultaneously running for president. A few months ago, the topic was rather interesting because Senator Paul had not formally announced his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Now that he has, I can understand why the issue is important to the people of Kentucky, but here in Iowa, all that really matters is that he’s running for president. Also, if Kentucky Republicans were actually concerned about this, one would think they would find someone to run against Senator Paul in the primary, thus forcing him to either go all in on a presidential race or focus on running for re-election.

I thought Bob Haus, a Republican political operative who is guiding former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign in Iowa, posted an interesting tweet on the subject yesterday.

// Paul has strongly advocated for federal term limits, yet his desire to seek two federal offices at the same time makes him seem just a little hypocritical. I didn’t know there was a national high-five day. Former New York Governor George Pataki was campaigning all across New Hampshire on Thursday. This tweet got my attention.

Pataki also was very proud to have dined at Chipolte for lunch.

// will politicians realize that most everyday Americans have no clue who they are? I had dinner with Rick Santorum in the fall of 2012 at a steak house in Waterloo. A presidential debate was on the TV, and our server asked if we were interested in the debate or the baseball game that was on the other channel. I think Santorum laughed and said something like he was all debated out. The server was clueless that he was the winner of the Iowa Caucuses earlier that year.

Jeb’s Big Brother Says It’s His Fault


Former President George W. Bush told an audience this week that he is the main problem with his brother’s 2016 campaign. “That’s why you won’t see me out there, and he doesn’t need to defend me, and he’s totally different from me. The role of family is not to be a political adviser or a policy adviser — there are plenty of those around — the role is to say, ‘Hey man, I love you.’

The former President was referencing what many call “Bush fatigue,” the notion that we don’t need another president with the last name of Bush. George W. Bush also offered, “It’s going to be a hard test for everyone, but it should be. You want to see these candidates under pressure, see them fail and succeed so you have a better idea how they’ll handle the pressures of the job. Jeb has actually run something, called a state. That’s a skill that comes in handy where you’re in charge of a very complex multifaceted organization.”

A couple of things. First, George W. Bush is a classy individual. Second, Jeb’s problem isn’t “W.” Its that he doesn’t have the same type of personality as “W.” Whether you are a “W” fan or not, it’s nearly impossible to not like the man. Not only is he a good man, but he has a engaging personality, which his brother seems to lack.

Got an Extra $4,428 laying Around?

This October you can travel to the Holy Land with The Family Research Council. Two special guests, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, will also participate in the trip. One wonders if a Lincoln/Douglas style debate could break out over dinner one night. This probably isn’t going to interest many Iowans since Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have already led groups of Iowans on the trip free of charge. What is curious to me is how Jindal and Santorum can commit to being on this trip in the middle of a presidential campaign? What if there is a debate scheduled, or some other kind of important event? I don’t know, it just seems like an odd thing to do right in the middle of a presidential campaign.

Jindal’s Dynasty Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame told Fox News Radio this week that he’s sticking with his home state governor, Bobby Jindal, if he runs for president in 2016. the latest video at

Rand would be wise to embrace his libertarian roots

randcpAs Kentucky Senator Rand Paul launches his presidential campaign, the immediate question that will be on everybody’s mind is, can he do something his father couldn’t do in two attempts – win the Iowa Caucuses ?

There are obvious benefits he will receive from Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Rand Paul will inherit a national fundraising base and grassroots network in a number of early states, but he will also benefit from a seasoned national staff in addition to a handful of Iowans that include former Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker and former Iowa GOP Co-Chairman David Fischer. Spiker and Fischer proved in 2012 that they know what they are doing when it comes to an Iowa caucus campaign.

A number of recent national news articles have commented on the “balancing act” that Paul is attempting in his presidential campaign as he tries to keep the libertarian leaning Republicans his father energized while also reaching out to more mainstream Republicans. As the Republican Party has become more hawkish over the past six months in regards to Iran and the Middle East, Paul’s balancing act has become more difficult.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that a conservative group called The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America is already launching a campaign that essentially says that when it comes to dealing with Iran, Senator Paul is no different than Obama. If you think this will be some short-term effort just to cause Paul some grief as he announces his presidential campaign, think again. There will be plenty of money poured into the effort, and it’s likely that it will be around throughout the campaign.

Running a campaign that broadens one’s reach is always a good endeavor. Candidates do it all the time. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum want to appeal to more people than just social conservatives. Jeb Bush wants to appeal to conservative Republicans as much as he appeals to the moderate wing of the Republican Party. However, just because it’s a well-intentioned endeavor doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work.

At the end of the day, a candidate’s true colors will always show through. No matter how hard a guy like Santorum tries to focus on manufacturing and rebuilding the middle class in America, he will always be known as one of the more staunch social conservatives in the race. It might not be fair, but it is reality.

In this case, Senator Paul will either have to distance himself from his father’s libertarian views or embrace them. Sure, it would be nice to appeal to both segments of the Republican Party, but at the end of the day, or in this case, in the final months before the caucuses, Paul will have to make a choice.

First and foremost, Senator Paul needs to be true to himself. In my opinion, Paul’s best play for his presidential aspirations is to embrace his libertarian roots. Instead of giving you one good reason, how about we start with 26,036 reasons. That is the number of votes that Ron Paul received in Iowa in 2012. In a crowded GOP field that features multiple establishment candidates and scads of social conservatives, instead of 26,036 votes being good for third place in 2012, it may be enough to win the Iowa Caucuses outright in 2016.

What Ron Paul accomplished in 2012 is still impressive. The 26,036 votes account for nearly 22 percent of the entire caucuses vote. Ron Paul also won 16 counties in 2012, but finished a strong second in some of the states more populated counties like Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story.

I also don’t think that Senator Paul has to shy away from his father’s libertarian brand of politics to increase his vote share. One of the main reasons why Ron Paul was able to grow his support in Iowa wasn’t just because he ran a better campaign, but because the issues that he was touting became more main-stream with Republican voters. Many of those same issues remain popular.

Another reason why Paul will naturally attract more voters than his father is his age. At 52, Senator Paul isn’t viewed as some crazy old man running for president, like his father unfortunately was often categorized as being. Essentially, what Senator Paul needs to try to accomplish is to be the same as his father on the issues but with more appealing packaging.

The way for Rand Paul to expand his network isn’t to run away for his father, it’s to embrace his father. Be the libertarian in the race. Not only will it provide Senator Paul with a big base of support, but it will also allow him to better message to younger voters while also appealing to the more contrarian voter who is always looking for a good fight.

Survey the recent headlines. There are signs of weakness from Paul as he tries to be all things to all people. Doing so not only generates negative news articles, but also allows his opponents to easily attack him. However, if Paul were to embrace his libertarian roots, there are not many candidates in the field that have what it takes to win that kind of argument or wage the type of campaign it would take to beat him.

The more libertarian-leaning Senator Paul becomes, the better his odds of winning Iowa.


Photo by Dave Davidson –