There is one way to describe Senator Rand Paul’s Latest Trip to Iowa: Perfect

randpaulI know this won’t be popular on these pages, but the National Journal’s article calling former Republican Party of Iowa Chairman, A.J. Spiker, Rand’s “Iowa Albatros” was a bunch of crap.

It is true that many establishment Republicans and county party activists despise Spiker. Here is what you need to remember – Rand Paul is never going to get Andy Cable’s, Don Kass’, or Doug Gross’s vote. Spiker is tasked with organizing the people who he has a good rapport with. This is nothing new to politics. Campaigns of every shape and size target certain coalitions of voters, and Spiker is tasked to work with the libertarian leaning voters.

Besides all of that, Spiker proved that he was one of the better organizers in Iowa in 2012. People tend to overlook the fact that his candidate received more votes at the Ames Straw Poll in 2012 than Romney did in 2008.   Or that Ron Paul only received 3900 fewer votes in 2012 at the caucuses than Romney got in 2008, which is about the same margin Romney beat Paul by in 2012. Spiker may not understand how to run and manage a political party organization, but he knows what he’s doing with a caucus campaign. If you can’t see that, you are blinded by your personal disdain of the man.

Rand Paul’s approach to Iowa in 2012 was on display for all to see last weekend. On Friday in Des Moines, he held an Audit the Fed Rally targeted at the libertarian voters that supported his father in Iowa for the past couple of years. The next day, he campaigned for Congressman Rod Blum in Marshalltown, an event that is more open to people of all political persuasions. Later that day he attended a private event hosted by former State Representative and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Steve Sukup, who officially endorsed Paul.

The two were seen sitting courtside at the Iowa State men’s basketball game. Here’s the deal – Ron Paul would have never been able to get a guy like Sukup, who’s family owns a large rural agricultural manufacturing plant, four years ago. If Paul’s team only included his father’s old political team, I would highly doubt their ability to get a guy like Sukup on board. The Sukup endorsement was made possible because Paul has people like Steve Grubbs helping him in Iowa. Grubbs knows Sukup well. He played a major role in Sukup’s 2002 campaign for governor.

Paul’s trip to Iowa was perfect last weekend because we saw both arms of the campaign working. If they can continue to operate like this, watch out.





Iowans Down on Bush and Christie

ChristieThe latest Iowa Poll from the Des Moines Register has gotten plenty of ink in national news publications.  The poll confirms what was on display a couple weeks ago at Congressman Steve King’s Annual Freedom Summit – Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an early favorite for the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.

While Walker’s strong poll numbers stood out in a crowded field of candidates, perhaps more newsworthy was the number of big name candidates who’s support was underwhelming to say the least.  Even though Walker was the talk of the town after the King event, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been pleasing Iowa audiences for a couple of years now.  Surprisingly, only five percent of respondents said that Cruz was their first choice for president in the caucuses.

Cruz wasn’t the only surprise.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the perceived national frontrunner in the 2016 Republican race only garnered eight percent.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mustered support from only four percent of respondents.  Those numbers are shocking, and when you peel back the onion and look at the favorable and unfavorable numbers it’s easy to see that Bush and Christie have a ton of work to do if they have any visions of being competitive in the Iowa caucuses.

Walker had the strongest net favorability rating in the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll with a +48 score (60 percent favorable compared to 12 percent unfavorable).  A big chunk of the potential 2016 field has strong net favorability scores.  Rand Paul had a +39, while Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry followed closely with +38.  Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz each posted a net favorability number of +37.

From there the bottom falls out.  Bush, who is known to 89 percent of respondents, was viewed favorably by 46 percent of respondents, and unfavorably by 43 percent, giving him just a +3 favorability rating.  The news was even worse for Christie, who is underwater with a -19 score.  Only 36 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Christie, while a whooping 56 percent viewed him unfavorably.  The only good news in the poll for Governor Christie is that he didn’t score the lowest of all potential 2016 candidates.  That honor goes to Donald Trump, with an amazing -42 percent rating.

The negative feeling towards Bush and Christie surprised me, so I dug out a poll that commissioned in June of 2011 about the 2012 presidential field to have a comparison.  Interestingly enough, we included Governor Christie in our poll since a number of influential Iowans were publically encouraging him to run for President in 2012.  Christie’s numbers couldn’t be more different.  While Christie had a -19 net favorability rating in the Register’s poll, in 2011, the TIR poll had him with a +38 score, with 48 percent of Iowa Republicans having a favorable opinion of him, while only 10 percent had an unfavorable view of the outspoken New Jersey Governor.

Christie is the same type of politician today as he was four years ago, and he’s invested a lot of time and political capital in Iowa over the past four years, so what gives?  First, Christie’s shtick may be getting old, especially when he doesn’t have many tangible conservative victories to point to in New Jersey.  Second, his warm embrace of Obama near the end of the 2012 campaign during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy angered many conservatives.

The most similarly situated 2011 candidate to Christie today would be Newt Gingrich, who had a -14 net favorability rating, with 38 percent having a favorable view of him at the time and 52 percent having an unfavorable view.  At the time, Gingrich’s campaign was in complete disarray.  News stories about Gingrich’s line of credit at Tiffany & Co were everywhere, and soon many on Gingrich’s staff would quit while he and his wife were on vacation in Italy.

Like any poll question, favorability numbers offer us just a snapshot in time of how Iowa Republicans view the potential 2016 candidates.  Still, one has to wonder how on earth Christie and Bush turn their numbers around?  For Bush, issues like common core and immigration have him crossways with many Republican voters.  But perhaps what’s at work is an anti-establishment, anti-entitlement electorate that isn’t in the mood to listen to who the consultant class is excited about.

With Christie and Bush not having numbers that suggest that they are the frontrunners, one has to wonder how long will it be before the powerbrokers who control the purse strings will go looking for a more popular establishment candidate.  Or perhaps those people could get behind someone else like Walker, who seems to be more widely accepted than either Christie and Bush currently are.

Never before have we seen such a weak frontrunner, and perhaps that is why Romney spent the past three weeks contemplating a third presidential campaign.  Conservatives welcomed the idea of Romney running again because it would have further splintered the moderate vote in Republican primaries, but after looking at these current numbers, maybe they don’t need Romney’s help.


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Fact Check: Has the Iowa Straw Has Been an Accurate Indicator of Success?

IowaThe much-discussed Iowa Straw Poll dominated the news last week.  At it’s quarterly meeting on Saturday, the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee voted unanimously to once again hold the event in August.  The vote came a few days after a legal opinion from the Republican National Committee’s legal counsel concluded that the event did not violate any RNC rules in any way.

Over the past few months, the national media once again went out of its way to discredit the event.  The most frequent criticism was that the event is not an accurate indicator of who will win the Republican nomination or even fare well in the Iowa Caucuses.

Nobody has ever claimed that the Iowa Straw Poll was an indicator of who will win the Republican nomination.  Heck, not even the caucuses are known for doing that.  What the Straw Poll and the caucuses have done so well over their history is winnow the field of candidates.   This allows the other early states to choose from a much narrower field of candidates, and that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, with fewer debates as a result of new RNC rules, the media and voters alike will be clamoring for something to help narrow what could be a crowded field of GOP presidential candidates.

Even though Michele Bachmann flamed out after winning the Straw Poll in 2011, it’s not fair to suggest that the event doesn’t give us a glimpse of what to expect in the caucuses.  If you take out Bachmann and Phil Gramm’s first place finishes in 2011 and 1995 respectively, the Straw Poll has actually been a solid indicator of what’s going on in Iowa in advance of the caucuses.

The media seems to think that the only way for the Straw Poll to be legitimate is if the winner of the event goes on to win the caucuses.  The truth is that, in the six Straw Polls that have been conducted over the years, the candidates who finished first and second in Ames finished first or second in the caucuses four times.

Phil Gramm’s implosion in 1995 was a result of the fact that he got beat by Pat Buchannan in the Louisiana caucuses that occurred before the Iowa caucuses that year.  The loss killed Gramm’s chances in Iowa.  Pat Buchannan, who finished third in Ames in 1995, beat Gramm in the Louisiana caucuses and finished second in Iowa. I would say that from 1979 through 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll has been extremely accurate in predicting a candidate’s Iowa success.  It’s not the Straw Poll’s fault that Gramm made a poor decision in playing in Louisiana.

So what about 2011?  First, the last two Straw Polls have seen the national frontrunners not participate, which is one of the big problems the Iowa GOP must fix.  Second, the field of candidates in the past two presidential election cycles has remained turbulent until after the Straw Poll.  Fred Thompson jumped into the race after the 2007 Straw Poll, and Texas Governor Rick Perry jumped into the race on the same day as the 2011 Straw Poll.  Every time a formidable candidate either drops out or joins the race, it’s going to shake things up.

What about Bachmann?  Bachmann’s first place finish in Ames and her sixth place finish in the caucuses is also problematic for the Iowa GOP.  Bachmann treated Ames just like it was an actual primary.  Forget the fact that she had a huge tent, country music acts, and state fair food because that stuff doesn’t tell you how she won.  The Bachmann campaign spent a ton of money on direct mail, telemarketing, and radio and TV ads all in an effort to boost turnout for Ames.

The Bachmann plan worked because her competition in Ames was rather weak.  Tim Pawlenty provided the most serious challenge to Bachmann in Iowa at the time.  Not only did Bachmann kill him in a Fox News debate just days before the Straw Poll, but everyone and their brother knew that Pawlenty’s campaign was in serious trouble.  It’s hard to believe now, but Michele Bachmann was running the most legitimate campaign in Iowa in August of 2011.

Bachmann’s demise in Iowa occurred because after the event, she turned into a diva, which was on full display in Waterloo the day after the Straw Poll.  The fact that Bachmann exhausted all of her resources in Ames combined with her repeated gaffes that fall explains why the campaign’s fundraising dried up.  The Bachmann campaign was counting on a huge bounce out of Ames, not in just polling, but in her grassroots organization and fundraising.  Instead of a bounce, it was a thud.  It also didn’t help that Bachmann’s Iowa Campaign Chairman, publicly quit her campaign right before the caucuses.  Like her campaign, the ordeal with Kent Sorenson turned into a soap opera.

Even with Bachmann’s demise after August, the 2011 Straw Poll showed that Ron Paul was a legitimate candidate in Iowa.  Paul finished second in Ames. People never acknowledge how significant his showing was that day because the focus has always been on Bachmann.  I bet most Iowans wouldn’t believe that Ron Paul received more votes in the 2011 Straw Poll than Romney garnered in Ames four years earlier.  Paul finished third in the caucuses, but with an impressive 21 percent of the vote.  Paul’s finish was not a surprise on caucus night because we saw his strength in Ames.  The surprise was Santorum, the 4th place finisher in Ames, who caught fire in the final weeks before the caucuses.

The Iowa Straw Poll has its downside, but the argument that it is not an early indicator of a candidate’s success in Iowa is just wrong.  In 1999, the Straw Poll was a contest between George W. Bush and Steve Forbes, a precursor to the caucuses that would follow.  In 2007, Straw Poll was a battle between Romney and Huckabee.  The same two candidates battled it out for the caucuses.

Bachmann’s demise shouldn’t diminish the storied history of the Iowa Straw Poll.  Even if the national frontrunner avoids the event in 2016, the event will once again provide us an indication as to who are the real contenders in Iowa and who are simply pretenders.

One final thought.  Perhaps the best salesperson for the Iowa Straw Poll is it’s most famous victor, President George W. Bush.  He is what he had to say about the event.

Two months ago, when my Iowa supporters convinced me to participate in this straw poll, some pundits said I had nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose.  Well thanks to you, we gained a lot.  We have accomplished what we set out to do.  We jump-started our grassroots organization for the main event, the Iowa caucuses.  Today was also a great day for the Republican Party of Iowa.  There is a new energy in this state, there is a new enthusiasm in this state.  And this new energy will help Republicans take back the White House in the year 2000.

The winner today was not just George W. Bush.  It was the Republican Party and our great ideas.  It was the democratic process.  This is a great festival of democracy that we participated in today.  I want you to know this is just the beginning.  I have a lot of work to do.  But the victory in Iowa put me on the road to earning the nomination of the Republican Party.

George W. Bush
August 14, 1999


Rand Paul Shows Weakness in Announcing Re-Election Bid for his U.S. Senate Race

Rand PaulOn Monday, Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul announced his intention to run for a second term in the United States Senate. Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010, but his meteoric rise to national prominence turned the first term Senator into a prospective 2016 presidential candidate as soon as Mitt Romney lost to President Obama in 2012.

There is just one slight problem for Paul – Kentucky law does not allow for one person to be on the ballot twice, meaning that he would have to pick between running for President in 2016 or running for a second term in the U.S. Senate. Paul, who is still actively pursuing a 2016 presidential run, is also trying to change the Kentucky law that could very well throw a wrench in his presidential plans according to CNN.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Kentucky’s May 17th primary day would pose the first challenge to Paul should he decide to run for president and for re-election to the Senate in the same year. With the Iowa caucuses slated to be later than they have been in years, it is possible that the Republican nominee won’t be determined before the Kentucky primary.

Needless to say, Paul’s presidential ambitions have created a mess for the Kentucky Senator. Paul, a staunch supporter of state’s rights, was recently asked by Salon how this situation should be handled. He stated, “I think making the playing field equal for people across the United States.” Paul went on to explain that the Constitution sets the requirements for eligibility for office, not the states. That’s true, but Kentucky’s state law does nothing to determine a candidate’s eligibility, it simply states that someone’s name can’t appear on the same ballot for two different offices.

The Kentucky law is similar to laws in other states, and most people don’t have a problem with them. I’m sure the Paul supporters in Iowa would have freaked out had Terry Branstad chose to run for Governor and U.S. Senator in 2014. Can you imagine the mess that would create in a state? The reason that laws like these are on the books is so that voters can choose who they want to represent them instead of a candidate choosing which office he prefers.

Paul’s legal problem isn’t some constitutional crisis. This is a crisis created by an ambitious politician who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who like Paul was also elected in 2010, would have to make a similar decision should he run for president in 2016. This is also why most Senators ultimately decide to run for president in years when they are not up for re-election.

When I saw the first article Monday night announcing that Paul was planning to seek re-election to his Senate seat, I viewed it as a sign of weakness. If Paul really believes that he’s a formidable presidential contender, he should have no problems walking away from his Senate seat to run for president. The fact that he is so insistent on making sure he will still have his Senate seat to fall back on does nothing to display confidence in his own presidential prospects.

To be honest, I would prefer Paul to stay in the U.S. Senate, and the same goes with Marco Rubio. After winning control of the Senate in November, holding control is going to be difficult in 2016. There are a lot of difficult states for Republicans to hold. There’s Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. If a Paul or Rubio chooses to run for President it just makes the Republicans’ job of holding the U.S. Senate that much more difficult.

I’m also not convinced that Rand Paul has the makings of a top tier presidential candidate. In a trip to Iowa earlier this year, Paul was hounded by the media in regards to inconsistencies between his current and past statements on critical issues. While Paul is treated like a rock star by some, his speaking style is lethargic and doesn’t have the gravitas that many expect from someone running for president.

While the recent articles about how the Kentucky law are giving Paul’s presidential plans fits, he also needs to worry about what a presidential campaign could do to his re-election campaign in Kentucky. Anyone who seeks his or her party’s nomination for president will come under intense scrutiny. Even though the campaign may be waged in states thousands of miles away from Kentucky, the voters there will still see and hear those criticisms. Running for president while seeking re-election to the Senate may seem like a good idea, but a candidate could easily find himself being attacked by a Democrat at home and a slew of Republicans on the road. That’s a recipe for disaster if you ask me.

I understand the predicament that Senator Paul finds himself in, but at age 51, it’s not like it’s 2016 or bust for him as far as a presidential run is concerned. In 2020, Paul will be four years into his second term in the U.S. Senate, and could run for president without having to give up his Senate seat. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, Paul could possibly run for the president in 2024, when he would be two years into a third term. In fact, the problem of being on the ballot for two offices won’t be a problem for Paul until 2028. Even then, he will only be 65 years old, hardly at the end of his political career so long as he stays in elected office.

Paul currently employs a number of Iowans, a clear sign to many that he’s serious about a presidential run in 2016. However, by announcing that he’s also focused on keeping his seat in the U.S. Senate he is basically telegraphing that he’s not all that confident of success if he does run for president in 2016. With that being the case, it probably makes more sense for Paul to focus on his work in the United States Senate and in his home state of Kentucky rather than Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Rand Paul Rallies UNI Students for Rod Blum in 1st CD Race

Rand PaulKentucky Senator Rand Paul campaigned for Republican candidates in eastern Iowa on Wednesday.  Paul began his Iowa itinerary with a campaign rally with First District Congressional candidate Rod Blum on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa over the lunch hour.  Around 200 people attended the rally, some members of the community, but most of those in attendance were students.

Blum is running for the First Congressional seat that is being vacated by  Congressman Bruce Braley who is running for the U.S. Senate.  Blum’s Democrat opponent is former Iowa Speaker of the House Pat Murphy.  The First Congressional District has a sizable registered voter advantage for the Democrats, but before Braley took office in 2007, northeast Iowa was represented by Congressman Jim Nussle for years.

Bolstered by a young and energetic group of volunteers and campaign staffers, Blum has run a strong general election campaign.  The combination of a hard-working candidate who is great on the stump and a staff that is constantly working hard has put race into play.  Blum’s congressional bid has also been aided by the endorsement of the two largest newspapers in the District, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

Blum’s noon-time rally with Paul provided a glimpse of the hard charging campaign that he is running.  While a member of the Paul family visiting a college campus in Iowa is nothing new, the Blum campaign scheduled the rally to coincide with satellite voting taking place on campus today.  At the conclusion of the rally, those in attendance were reminded that they could go cast their vote in the other part of the student union.

Paul began his remarks by cracking a joke about how the First Lady repeatedly called Bruce Braley Bruce bailey during her last visit to Iowa.  Michelle Obama got Braley’s name right in her visit yesterday, but the White House embarrassed itself again yesterday when it said that Braley was running for governor and not for the U.S. Senate.

Paul stuck to his normal talking points, focusing on individual liberty.  He said that Democrats like to talk about income inequality, but never admit that it is worse under President Obama than it was during the years of his Republican predecessor.  Paul also noted that income inequality is more prevalent in big cities where there are Democrat mayors than cities with Republican mayors.

As one would expect, Paul talked about protecting people’s right to privacy.  “What you do or say on your cell phone is none of the government’s business,” Paul said to the enthusiastic crowd.  He then explained that if the federal government has reason to monitor someone’s phone activity, they should be required to get a warrant.

Like Paul has done at events in Iowa before, he quoted Montesquieu, saying that when a president starts legislating, you have tyranny.  Paul used the quote to address the immigration debate going on in Washington.  Paul didn’t weigh in on either side of the debate, but said that whatever happens should be an act of congress and not the sole act of a president.

After Blum’s event at UNI on Wednesday, Paul headlined an event for State Representative Bobby Kaufmann before attending a rally at the University of Iowa with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

Thoughts on Ferguson – America Has Some Serious Problems

FergusonFor almost two weeks now, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson has garnered the attention of the nation as protests and civil unrest sprung out of the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year old back man, who was shot six times by a white police officer.

To say that what’s going on in Ferguson is a difficult situation is a gross understatement.   It’s a mess, and everybody involved shares some blame.  From Governor Jay Nixon, to the local authorities, to those who are rioting in the street.  I even think some in the media share the blame.

To be honest, my thoughts on the matter seem to change daily depending on the latest developments.  I’m sympathetic to the black community that is outraged over an 18-year old being gunned down after he stole some tobacco products from a convenience store.  However, as my wife, who happens to be an attorney, rightfully reminds me, law enforcement didn’t use deadly force against Brown because he stole a few cigarillos.  The law enforcement officer used deadly force against Brown because Brown allegedly endangered the life of a police officer by rushing at him .

It’s a valid point that that needs to be driven home, but that point seems to be lost in all the media coverage and emotion of the situation.

As I watch what is happening in Ferguson on a daily basis, what really saddens me is what I’m not seeing – leadership.

The media got all excited when Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson marched with protestors to the torched Quick Trip where protestors gather on a nightly basis last Thursday.  His tactics worked that night, but the violence and protests soon resumed.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who’s been a mess, later called in the National Guard.  President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder haven’t really provided any leadership either.

In a press conference last Friday, Captain Johnson, questioned why the surveillance video from the convenience story was released at the same time that the name of the officer who shot Brown was released.  Johnson was brought in to deal the protest and unrest, yet he immediately felt the need to comment on the investigation.  That’s dangerous.

President Obama and Attorney General Holder were quick to say that a federal civil rights investigation was being conducted to see if the police violated Brown’s civil rights.  I understand the racial tensions in Ferguson are high, but shouldn’t a criminal investigation be done first?  The main thing that we need to find out is what exactly happened when the police officer confronted Brown.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has weighed in on Ferguson to talk about the need to demilitarize the police.  He’s made political hay with an op-ed in Time magazine, but while the issue is one that deserves debate, let’s be honest, that discussion does nothing to solve the crisis in Missouri, and has provided nothing in terms of leadership on a difficult issue.

The issues that need to be addressed go much further than why was Brown shot, and whether or not local police departments should have armored personnel carriers.

The underlining societal issues as I them are as follows:

1. A lack of respect of the law and personal property.

I’m disturbed by the video surveillance footage of Brown from the convenience store.  Brown used his size to bully and intimidate the store worker who dared to approach him after stealing products from the store.

2. As a society, we no longer value life.

Many think that the debate over the right to life is only confined to the debate over abortion in this county.  I think an argument could be made that what has the black community up in arms is that too many of their young adults are being shot and killed for what they believe are ridiculous reasons.  However, this doesn’t give anyone the right to go start violent riots.  Again, this is where my legally trained wife and I have debates around the dinner table, but I understand why they are frustrated.  This issue goes way beyond Michael Brown.  Here are a few recent incidents.

Eric Garner of New York died after an altercation with a cop on July 17th.  Garner, who was also unarmed, died as a result of being taken down by a chokehold applied to him by a New York City cop.  Garner had just broken up a street fight.  He was understandably disturbed why the cops were giving him a difficult time and wanted to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes.  The incident was caught on camera.  You can hear Garner tell the cops that he can’t breath.

John Crawford was killed inside an Ohio Walmart store on August 5th.  He was holding pellet gun, which the store sells.  The pellet gun was taken out of its packaging.  When police instructed Crawford to put the gun down, he didn’t comply.  A police officer shot Crawford in the torso, killing him.

Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by St. Louis police earlier this week.  Powell had a knife and was acting erratically. He refused obey the police and when he lunged towards them he was shot multiple times.  Like the Garner altercation, Powell’s death was also caught in its entirety on video camera.

I find the Garner situation the most disturbing, but while Crawford and Powell each were incredibly stupid and in the wrong, I struggle with the fact that these individuals were killed by law enforcement.

3. Why are the rules of engagement in America are tougher than they are in Afghanistan?

I’m disturbed by what appears to be the growing “shoot-first” policy by law enforcement in America.  Ironically the rules of engagement for our military troops in hostile areas and war zones in the Middle East are far more stringent than the rules of engagement our local authorities.


In 2013, a new U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement added restrictions on how American troops could engage Taliban fighters.  Soldiers now must positively confirm that the Taliban insurgent is armed before they can fire, even if they are 100 percent sure that the target is an enemy combatant.  Even before the change, soldiers complained about the lengthy checklist they had to go through before they engaged with a hostile.

How uncanny is it that identified members of the Taliban are provided more protections than a U.S. citizen in the suburbs?

There are other signs of trigger-happy law enforcement.  In June, a Utah man’s dog was shot and killed by police who were looking for a missing girl.  The dog was in its fenced in yard.  In July, Chicago cops killed a dog in front its six-year old owner.  The shooting also occurred in the dogs yard.

I know that many of the readers of this site will likely disagree with me, but I find the actions of law enforcement just as disturbing as the stupidity displayed by some of the shooting victims.  This is the United States of America.  We are supposed to be a nation that basks in the glow of freedom and be comforted by the fact that ours is a nation of law and order.

Of course, I realize that we do not live in a utopia.  I understand that those who violate our laws should be prosecuted.  Yet there has to be a better option in dealing with these individuals than squeezing off six rounds into their bodies.  When we show overseas terrorists more respect than a black kid in St. Louis, we as a county have serious problems to address.

Rand’s Not Running at Full Speed – The Weekly Round Up

Rand-PaulWe all know that Congressman Steve King never shies away from an immigration debate, but who knew that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul would run for cover when confronted on the campaign trail in Iowa.

On Monday, two “dreamers” confronted King about his stance on illegal immigration while he dined with Senator Paul. As you will see in the first moments of the video, Paul takes an enormous bite of his sandwich then promptly gets out of the view of the camera.

In Paul’s defense, it was King who these individuals wanted to talk to and get on camera, but the Kentucky Senator needs to realize that, if he runs for president in 2016, he’s going to have to deal with instances like this directly and not run away.

Paul has been defensive of the criticism surrounding this video and told Politico that he’s very open to doing interviews on the issue.

More from the Land of Rand


On the road in Iowa, Senator Paul was asked his position on impeaching President Obama.  Paul simply stated that he doesn’t support it.  While that may be a politically expedient answer, it might not sit well with some of the people who are predisposed to support him due to their contrarian nature.

Paul would have been wise to answer the question differently.  It’s the U.S. House of Representatives that brings impeachment changes against the President.  The Senate tries the impeachment case, meaning Senator Paul could have just said that if the House chooses to bring articles of impeachment against the president, he would listen to both sides of the case and, then and only then, decide if the case was strong enough to warrant impeachment.


Senator Paul voted to shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Obamacare, but he once again stated that he thought the government shutdown was a “dumb idea.”  Paul is once again trying to have it both ways on the issue. Paul’s position might be out-of-step with those who are most inclined to support his candidacy.

I think a real leader would have stood up and said it was a dumb idea at the time instead of voting for the dumb idea and then saying it was stupid when it was all said and done.


Senator Paul needs a refresher on his own record.

This week Paul said that he’s never proposed ending foreign aid to Israel, but an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN in 2011 says otherwise.

Here is the key part of Paul’s interview with Blitzer in 2011.



“Well, I think what you have to do is you have to look,” Paul said. “When you send foreign aid, you actually [send] quite a bit to Israel’s enemies. Islamic nations around Israel get quite a bit of foreign aid, too.

“You have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East.”

Blitzer pressed, “End all foreign aid including the foreign aid to Israel as well. Is that right?” he asked.

Paul answered, “Yes.”



That’s a pretty clear-cut answer if you ask me.

Senator Paul was also asked if he supported a federal marriage amendment at a breakfast on Wednesday morning.  Paul said, “I support the concept,” and then went on to explain that he believes it’s an issue that should be decided on a local level, not the federal level.  Paul said, “There are two things I don’t want register – my guns or marriage – with the federal government.”

The problem with Paul’s states’ rights answer is that the courts have been overturning state DOMA laws left and right.  Even states that don’t have marriage laws or amendments on the books are now dealing with the issue.

Simply put, Paul’s answer on marriage was a copout.  Later in the day, Paul told a group of pastors that he “didn’t think this was an issue that can be won legally, and that we may need to just do our own marriage thing in the church building.”

Which leads me to wonder if Senator Paul knowingly lied to the gentleman who he told that he “supported the concept of a federal marriage amendment” at breakfast.

I stand with Ann Coulter, who said, “Just pick a position,” when asked about Paul’s follies while on the campaign trail this week.

Conclusion: There was a lot of interest in Senator Paul’s trip to Iowa this week, but I don’t think it went all that well.  More on that next week.

Former Iowa GOP Executive Director Walks Away With $38k – Leaves RPI Broke

Bierfeldt RPIA March press release announcing the resignation of A.J. Spiker as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) boasted, “Spiker leaves the Republican Party of Iowa with more than $300,000 cash on hand, zero debt and with a voter registration advantage for Republicans over the Iowa Democratic Party.”

However, the June campaign finance report that the Iowa GOP filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the weekend shows that just four months later the party was effectively broke. The Iowa GOP showed a little more than $300,000 in the bank in its federal account at the end of 2013, but since then the party’s bottom line has plummeted to just over $11,000.

At the beginning of June, RPI had a balance of $130,399.15 cash on hand, according to documents it filed with the FEC. The Iowa GOP took in $29,000, which included $17,500 from the Republican National Committee in June, but expended $148,783 from its federal account. This left the party with just $11,219 in its federal account—the lowest ending balance since Dec. 1999.

It’s been well documented that fundraising under Spiker’s leadership was anemic, and it certainly didn’t improve under Danny Carroll’s brief chairmanship. It’s apparent that Carroll conducted no fundraising of consequence during the two-and-a-half months that he led the party.

Perhaps more disturbing than the lack of fundraising at RPI was the complete lack of controls on spending during Carroll’s brief tenure. During the final three weeks of Carroll’s chairmanship, Steve Bierfeldt—Spiker’s hand-picked executive director—received roughly $38,000 in payments after taxes.

Bierfeldt’s regular bi-monthly salary disbursement was $2,831.44, according to past FEC reports. But in June he was paid sums of $8,590.91 on May 23, $15,283.48 on June 5, $11,295.28 on June 13, and $2,831.44 on June 20.

Republican activists and operatives have heard rumors that Carroll provided Bierfelt a severance bonus, supposedly hoping that it would facilitate a seamless transition. However, the new administration struggled to obtain correct passwords to social media accounts, the party’s website, email accounts, and financial information.

Bierfeldt, who was well compensated as the party’s executive director, wrote on his personal blog that he planned to travel the world after his job ended. His posts seem to indicate no remorse for an apparent premeditated effort to drain the party’s finances to finance a whirlwind trip around the globe.

Bierfeldt started writing more about his travel plans around the time of the January precinct caucuses, when it became clear that Gov. Terry Branstad’s campaign had aggressively organized its supporters to caucus and advance as delegates.

“When the current job I have comes to it’s conclusion, whenever that may be, I’ve decided I am going to travel around the world. For at least one year. This isn’t something I’m just considering, or I think might be fun, or something I’ll give serious decision [sic] to… This is something that I’ve decided. It’s going to happen. And I feel great about it.” Bierfeldt wrote in a January 27 post.

He recapped his plan less than a month ago, particularly to “save up money specifically for this trip,” and he wrote that his voyage had begun.

Around December/January of 2014, I decided that when my primary job finished, I’d travel the world for (at least) a year. I made it one of my major goals to save up money specifically for this trip. Now that that job has finished, I’ve been traveling a bit with plans to travel even more,” Bierfeldt wrote in a July 19 post.

Even before that, his writing makes clear that a significant chunk of his attention was focused on activities outside of the Iowa GOP, and—ironically—Bierfeldt pitched himself as an expert fundraiser at the same time the state party was routinely burning through more money in a month than it raised.

Bierfeldt authored an e-book called “How to Raise $1,000 in a Single Day” according to a June 2 blog post, the day before Iowa’s primary elections. Bierfeldt’s chutzpah is shocking considering the state of disarray in which he left RPI’s finances.

“I’ve asked for hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, even as much as a quarter of a million dollars. And you know what? More often than not, I’ve gotten it!” he wrote on page 5 of his ebook. “It’s not because I know some secret handshake or Jedi mind trick… I practice the very basic skills that allow activists, businessmen and candidates to raise money quickly and effective [sic].”

Even though Bierfeldt was handsomely compensated throughout his time at RPI and as he was departing the Iowa GOP, his attention has been elsewhere for most of his controversial tenure. Severance packages are rare for at-will employees of political parties.  Staffers typically know that positions are not long-term. Employees are also aware of how leadership changes can impact their jobs.

Now that the previous administration has left the building, the new leadership team has to to pick up the pieces. Essentially, it must rebuild the party from scratch in the midst of a competitive series of statewide and federal races

“I’m disappointed in the mismanagement of the party’s affairs by previous staffers and leaders, but my job isn’t to look backward. The FEC report speaks for itself,” Jeff Kaufmann, the newly-elected chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said in a statement. “Every day and night, I’m raising money, supporting Republican candidates at events across the state, and scrambling to build the best GOTV program the Iowa GOP has ever seen.”

Kaufmann has made recapitalizing the Iowa GOP’s federal account a top priority. After his election as chairman, he pledged to raise $300,000 by the end of September. While that appears to be a lofty goal, the Iowa GOP will need an influx of cash just to meet payroll.

Party sources indicate that Kaufman is making rapid progress toward his fundraising goal, and all coalitions of the party are eager to move beyond constant infighting and toward a unified effort to succeed in the November 4 midterm elections.

Photo by Dave Davidson,


Rand Paul Makes Pitch for Iowa Social Conservatives with new YouTube Ad

For the past week, Des Moines Register political reporter Jennifer Jacobs has been pushing a narrative that Kentucky Senator and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is making a calculated move not to attempt to court evangelical Christian voters in the state.

Jacobs published an article on Friday that pointed out that Paul has not accepted invitations to attend two Christian political events in August despite already being scheduled to be in the state.  Jacobs wrote, “That has led to some questions about whether Paul has made a calculation to compete for other factions of the GOP in Iowa, the crucial lead-off voting state, instead of going hard after evangelical Christian voters.”

Jacobs, who also participated in a reporter’s roundtable on last week’s edition of Iowa Press, continued to suggest that the Kentucky Senator maybe writing off social conservatives in Iowa because 2008 Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee is seriously considering seeking the Republican nomination in 2016.

“It has been interesting with Rand Paul,” Jacobs stated on Iowa Press which aired on Iowa Public Television this past weekend. “The evangelicals are watching him very closely right now. The last couple of times he has been here he has really embraced the Christian conservatives, met with some pastors, very much showed a friendliness in his speeches about God and religion. This time he has not RSVP’d for a big evangelical event in Cedar Rapids, even though we know he is going to be in town during that time period.

When asked what Paul’s decision not to attend these events meant, she responded, “Is he making a calculation to sidestep the evangelicals? Perhaps he thinks that… if Mike Huckabee gets into the race, he wouldn’t be able to win with the evangelical Christians, so he is going to focus on a different faction of the state?”

So is Rand Paul already ceding the evangelical and social conservative vote to a candidate who may or may note even be a candidate in 2016?  Hardly.

At the same time that Jacobs was writing about Paul’s apparent decision not to seek out support of evangelical Christians in Iowa, his U.S. Senate campaign began running paid ads on YouTube that tout his support for the life of the unborn.  The two-minute ad features Paul speaking about the value of life at a number of pro-life events and forums.

The ad is powerful and obviously designed for a couple of purposes.  The fact that it is running in Iowa is yet another indication that he is more focused on a presidential run in 2016 than a campaign for re-election.  The ad will also help Paul build inroads with social conservatives who might be a little suspect of the libertarian leaning Senator from Kentucky.

While Paul has a strong record when it comes to right to life issues, some recent comments have left social conservative leaders scratching their heads.  In 2013, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Paul if he supported exceptions when it comes to abortions.

Paul replied, “What I would say is there are thousands of exceptions. I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different.”  Paul went on to explain, “There are a lot of decisions made privately by families and doctors that really won’t, the law won’t apply to, but I think it is important we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeon hole and say this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family and physician.”

Paul quickly clarified his position by reassuring people that he’s 100 percent pro-life, but earlier this year,Paul once again made a comment that had pro-life leaders scratching their heads.

At an appearance this spring at the University of Chicago with David Axelrod, a former White House advisor to President Obama, Axelrod asked Paul how hard he would push to overturn Roe v. Wader if he were president.  Paul replied, “not much.”

Paul went on to explain, “My personal religious belief is that life begins at the very beginning.  I think where the country is, is somewhere in the middle, and we are not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise.

Paul’s YouTube ad is also likely designed to help inoculate him from being attacked on the issue by another Republican who is kicking the tires on a 2016 campaign of their own.  If anything Paul is making a play for the state’s social conservatives, not deciding that they aren’t part of his strategy in Iowa.

As for Paul not speaking at the American Renewal Project in Cedar Rapids in August, Paul spoke to the group last summer.  That event isn’t a cattle call for candidates either.  It’s by invitation only.  In 2007, David Lane, the organizer behind the event, snubbed Mike Huckabee.  In 2011, Huckabee got an invite, but the group snubbed the eventual caucus winner Rick Santorum, who to my knowledge has never been invited to address the group.

The other event that Paul has chosen not to attend, The FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit, is a classic cattle call type of event.  It’s my understanding that Paul will be a sponsor of the event, but it is interesting that he has chosen not to address the large audience of social conservatives that gather each year in Ames.

All that said, it’s silly this early in the 2016 process to suggest that a candidate is making a calculated decision to not go after a group of voters based entirely on their itinerary in August of 2014.  I think it’s pretty clear that social conservatives are a key constituency group for Paul in Iowa.  Only time will tell if he can seal the deal with them.  The biggest factor in how successful he is in that endeavor may be who all ultimately decides to run for president in 2016.

Why Steve Grubbs is a Big Get for Rand Paul

It’s a rare occurrence when I feel completely blindsided by a political development in Iowa, but I have to admit that my jaw dropped on Monday morning when Steve Grubbs called me to let me know that he and his political firm, Victory Enterprises, had signed on to work for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s political action committee.  Politico was the first to report on Monday that Rand PAC has hired Steve Grubbs, a longtime Iowa-based political operative.  Grubbs will be a top strategist in Iowa, but will also serve as an advisor to Paul nationally.

The 2014 general election is still five months away, but Paul clearly appears to be focused on the 2016 presidential contest instead of running for re-election.   Back in March, Rand PAC hired A.J. Spiker, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, who played a major role in Paul’s father’s 2012 campaign in Iowa.  The hiring of Spiker, while earlier than many people expected, didn’t surprise anyone.  The hiring of Grubbs, however, turned some heads.

Grubbs, a former state legislator and past chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, has been involved in Iowa politics for years.  As is the case with anyone in the political field, Grubbs has his fans and detractors.  Yet his experience working on caucus campaigns stretches back to 1988 with Bob Dole.   Eight years later, Grubbs was the state co-chair for Dole’s 1996 campaign.

I first met Grubbs in 1999 when I joined Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign right out of college.  Grubbs and a handful of others played an integral role in how the campaign approached Iowa.  Forbes canvassed the state with extensive tours, which isn’t new to caucus campaigns, but attendees at Forbes events were often provided an opportunity to get a photo with the candidate.  That seems silly with today’s technology, but back in 1999, being able to pick up a photo of yourself and Steve Forbes at the conclusion of the event was something of a technological breakthrough.

The Forbes campaign also offered incentives for people to sign up to go to the Ames Straw Poll or the caucuses.   In many instances, Grubbs was Forbes’ Iowa pitchman at campaign events, and it worked incredibly well.  Grubbs understood that it wasn’t good enough to just turn out people to campaign events.  The key is finding ways to get them to take the next step in helping the campaign organize.  Looking back, it’s amazing how a t-shirt, hat, or gold or silver lapel pen could motivate people to get involved in a campaign, but it was all genius.  It’s also something that hasn’t really ever been replicated since.

Grubbs is an idea man who forces the presidential campaigns that he works on to think outside of the box.  Not all of his ideas are good ones.  After Forbes’ impressive second place finish in Ames, Grubbs thought it would be a good idea for the field staff to organize huge potluck dinners.  “Who doesn’t love a good potluck?” I remember hearing.

As a field staffer I thought it was hard enough to get people to turn out to campaign events, let alone bring a covered dish to share.  And then what if someone got food poisoning at the event?  The potluck concept was quickly scratched, but that fall, the Forbes bus tours featured free soup and chili suppers, which were a huge hit.

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.

Most of Ron Paul’s campaign events were held in large metropolitan areas or college campuses, which made sense because of the type of people who were attracted to his candidacy.  Ron Paul never campaigned town-to-town like most presidential campaigns because, frankly, it might not have been a good use of his time.  Rand Paul however can and should campaign like a traditional candidate all across Iowa because he’s viewed as a more mainstream candidate and will likely be one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rand Paul will also benefit by being able to have Grubbs talk to the national and local media about the campaign.  Grubbs handles himself extremely well with the media, and if Rand Paul wants to branch out and appeal to more mainstream Republicans, he needs someone like Grubbs to communicate to them.

When it comes to presidential caucus politics in Iowa, there are plenty of people running around who profess to be experts in the field, but few have actually ever helped shepherd a candidate through the gauntlet that is an Iowa caucus campaign.  Having a guy like Grubbs involved with a potential Rand Paul presidential campaign will only help him navigate Iowa’s political waters.

I also think the combination of Grubbs and Spiker could work really well.  Spiker has plenty of detractors, but like Grubbs, he’s no slouch when it comes to caucus campaigns.  Many times, the difference between a presidential candidate winning or losing Iowa’s Frist-in-the-Nation caucuses can come down to simply hiring the right people.  Sometimes it’s getting the right mix of people.  I think adding Grubbs’ skillset to the pre-existing Paul/Liberty apparatus in Iowa could be very successful.

Below are some quick thoughts on what the Grubbs’ hiring by Rand PAC means.

1. Rand’s Running

Governors and U.S. Senators make for good presidential candidates because many times they are not up for re-election in presidential years.  That’s not the case for Rand Paul, whose Kentucky senate seat comes up for election in 2016.  This would give most politicians pause, but not Paul.  Paul’s recent Iowa hires, along with the fact that Doug Stafford, Paul’s former Chief of Staff who is now heading Rand PAC, recently spent time in Iowa meeting with Iowans about a potential presidential run, makes a Paul presidential campaign seem inevitable.

2. Rand’s Serious

It’s one thing to rattle cages by making a trip to Iowa, it’s something completely different when you start hiring high-profile Iowans.  Rand Paul is serious.  He was already going to be a formidable candidate because of the pre-existing infrastructure that is left over from his father’s campaigns, but being the first campaign to get up and running in a state like Iowa is wise.

3. Grubbs’ Hire Indicates That Things Will be Different for Rand

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.

4. Iowa Talent Is Starting to Come off the Board

Most presidential campaigns like to wait until the mid-term elections are finished before they begin to staff up in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.  Paul taking Grubbs off the board means there are now fewer experienced consultants available for other campaigns.  In 2012, candidates took their time staffing up, but 2016 looks like it’s going to resemble 2008 when candidates like Mitt Romney had paid staff in Iowa in 2006.

5. Smart to get Grubbs Early

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.

6. The 2016 Presidential Race Has Officially Started