Cruz Gets the Big Win He Desperately Needed

CruzFFC
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography. om

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Continues to Roll with Big Arizona Win– Cruz Scores Symbolic Victory in Utah

DJT Osky
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Americans woke up on Tuesday morning to news of terrorist attacks in Brussels that left at least 30 people dead and hundreds more wounded. By night’s end, voters in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho would cast their votes in the presidential race. As has been the case for Republicans for the past five Tuesday’s, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump continues his march to the Republican nomination.

Trump easily won Arizona’s 58 delegates, meaning he was able to keep pace in winning enough of the available delegates to reach the 1237 delegates necessary to claim the Republican nomination. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was able to win the Utah Caucuses, and even broke the 50 percent threshold that garners all of the state’s 40 delegates, but it’s more of a symbolic victory. The Utah win helps Cruz continue on, but does little to stop Trump’s momentum.

For weeks, national media outlets have devoted significant time and space to covering the “Stop Trump” movement, yet to date, there hasn’t been any indication that the effort has been effective in slowing Trump’s momentum. The month of April looks even better for Trump as the race heads back east with contests in Wisconsin, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Not only is the GOP race returning to the northeast, an area where Cruz is likely to struggle, but the terrorist attacks in Brussels only underscore the main themes of Trump’s campaign. Trump has made securing the border between the United States and Mexico his main objective. Before the attacks in Brussels and Paris, most Republican voters already supported securing the border. The recent attacks only make Trump’s plan to build a wall only more desirable.

With Arizona’s 58 delegates now in Trump’s column, he needs 498 delegates to claim the Republican nomination. With 984 unallocated delegates remaining, Trump now only needs to capture about 51 percent of those delegates to win. The next big contest will be in Wisconsin on April 5th. It is by far the friendliest turf for Cruz in the month of April, but in order to actually stop Trump, Cruz will need to win at least five of Wisconsin’s congressional districts, something we have yet to see him do outside of his home state of Texas.

The GOP Undercard Puts on an Impressive Show

FOXBUSIf you have longed for a substantive debate on the issues that allows for the candidates to show how their different from their Republican opponents, the Fox Business debate delivered. Not only was it informative, but the dynamics were interesting.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. We forget that there was a time when Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal were all hailed as rising Republican stars. Only Huckabee, who proved in 2008 that he could relate to people by using his folksy charm and personality, has been an underdog his entire political career.

It also helped that Fox Business focused the questions on policy and not personality. The debate moderators were tough but fair. More importantly they were never snarky. Good for them, what a novel concept.

I think the four candidates in the early debate have to be happy with what they were able to accomplish, and thus there are no real losers, but I do think some accomplished more than other.

Don’t get excited, it’s in alphabetical order.

Governor Chris Christie: Christie followed the same script used by Carly Fiorina that allowed her to get on to the main stage. Christie wasn’t on the debate stage to beat up on one of his fellow Republicans. His focus and target was Hillary Clinton. Throughout the entire debate, Christie kept coming back to Clinton and her policies. Focusing on Clinton is also smart because she is once again the presumptive Democrat nominee who is garnering more than 50 percent in most national Democrat polls.

The only people who like personal attacks are supporters of the candidate trying to land a punch on their intended target. Newsflash, none of the candidates on the stage have much support, so the idea that destroying someone to make yourself look better isn’t going to elevate anyone. Christie had a good night by staying above the fray.

Governor Mike Huckabee: The Fox Business debate provided Huckabee an excellent format in which he advocated for his Fair Tax proposal, which he did multiple times. It also allowed Huckabee a chance to discuss an issue that really separates himself from the rest of the GOP field, his objection to cutting social security and Medicare benefits.

Unlike other Republicans, Huckabee believes that since people have been forced to pay into these programs for their entire working lives, the government must uphold their end of the deal. It really is no different than the issues with the Veterans Administration. The government promised certain benefits to those who have put on the uniform of the United States in exchange for their service. While it may not be a huge issue in a presidential primary, it’s a home run in a general election.

What the Fox Business debate didn’t offer Huckabee was a chance to answer the critique of his record as governor by Governor Jindal. A commercial break and an inadvertent flip to Christie really hurt Huckabee.

Governor Bobby Jindal: First things first. I thought Governor Jindal looked and sounded better than he did in previous debates. Jindal was also incredibly aggressive throughout the debate by critiquing the records of both Huckabee and Christie. If you were a die-hard Jindal supporter, you probably loved it, but the reason he is in the undercard debate is because he doesn’t have many die-hard supporters.

In some ways, I understand what Jindal was trying to do, and it’s in character with the campaign he’s been running for the past year. Still I don’t know what he actually accomplished on Tuesday night. Jindal has positioned himself to be anti-Washington in the same way that Senator Ted Cruz is running against other Republicans as much as he is running against the Democrats.

This is where it gets tricky for Jindal. I don’t know how best to explain it, but he is essentially a generic version of Cruz. The difference is that with higher poll numbers, name ID, and a greater ability to raise money, Ted Cruz is a brand name candidate. Let me put it this way. Cruz is Mt. Dew while Jindal is Hillbilly Holler, the generic knockoff sold by Fareway grocery stores in Iowa.

Despite all of Jindal’s aggressiveness, I don’t think it really moves the needle in Iowa because he’s competing for the Cruz supporters, not the Huckabee or Christie voters.

Senator Rick Santorum: Even back in the early debates of 2012, I thought Santorum was a good debater. It’s not because of his ability to deliver a clever one-liner, but because the guy has a tremendous grasp on all the issues. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking about foreign policy or family issues, he always brings a ton of substance with him.

Santorum’s best debate moment came after Jindal took the liberty to critique Huckabee and Christie’s record. With his arms out-stretched Santorum essentially said, hey, if you are looking for a principled conservative who has actually accomplished something I’m your guy.

If Santorum can ever make it to the main debate stage he could really mix things up. He would be problematic for everyone on the stage for a couple of reasons. First, he’s passionate about what he believes in, and it’s easy to tell. He’s not trying to deliver the right answer, he’s telling people exactly what it is he believes. Second, it doesn’t matter if you are a libertarian like Rand Paul or moderate like John Kasich, Santorum will find ways to spar with anyone on that stage. Personally, I think we would be better off with people like that included on the main stage.

Jindal and Santorum Deserve to be on Main Debate Stage

Santorum
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Following the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) felt that it was necessary to provide some semblance control over the Republican presidential debates.

The RNC slashed the number of debates from 22 to 9. The committee also dictated where the debates would hold, which media outlets could host the debates, and even had some say on the debate moderators.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus referred to the 2012 Republican debates as being a “dog-and-pony-show” back in January. “I think debates are important, but just because you’re a good debater doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good president,” Priebus told the Washington Post in January, “It’s just too much of an importance on debating.

If I had to guess, Mr. Priebus probably doesn’t like the 2016 debates any better. In fact, as the race stands today, the media and political pundits want the race to take on a more serious tone, but instead, media outlets and the RNC have turned them into a reality TV-inspired rating bonanza.

This is yet another example of how the RNC’s constant tinkering with the nomination process, which now includes the debates, has proved to be a fool’s errand. By trying to “fix” what the political class thought was wrong in 2012, it created a system which today protects the frontrunner, who some believe is light on substance and long on panache.

If one truly believes that the race for the Republican nomination should be about issues and not personality and popularity, then you should support allowing candidates like Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum on the debate stage. Not only are both men some of the best-versed candidates when it comes to issues, but they are also two of the hardest campaigners in Iowa this cycle.

After CNBC announced its debate criteria on Tuesday, Curt Anderson, a Senior Advisor to Jindal for President, blasted the network for creating a debate criteria that didn’t take into account what is going on in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. “What happened to the notion of measuring candidate progress in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire?” Anderson asked.  “Did they somehow become irrelevant in the last three days?”

Anderson also wanted to know what role the RNC played in setting the criteria. “When pressed on that question by one of the campaigns (not Jindal’s), the RNC would only say that these are CNBC’s criteria,” said Anderson. “The RNC spokesman refused to answer a follow-up question about the RNC’s involvement in setting the criteria.”

In recent days, Governor Jindal has pressured Governor Branstad regarding his unwillingness to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa. Jindal is not simply talking about the issue, he’s actually offing advice to Branstad on how to do it. And while Jindal has centered his campaign around social and religious liberty issues, he is also well versed on foreign policy, education, and has first-hand experience in dealing with national disasters and recovery efforts.

Rick Santorum proved in the 2012 race that he can debate with the best of them on a multitude of topics. His debate skills were on display during an appearance on The View yesterday. Santorum debated marriage issues with host Raven-Symoné and debated Planned Parenthood with Whoopi Goldberg.

Santorum won the exchange with Goldberg, communicating effectively on a sensitive issue where many republican candidates falter, and whoever wins the nomination next year will have to be able to communicate on that issue much in the same way.

I thought Anderson wrapped up his argument over the CNBC debate criteria really well in a press release the campaign sent out on Tuesday. “The genius of our current process is that it forces candidates to run the gauntlet, it forces candidates to actually meet with voters, it forces candidates to prove over time that they have the dexterity to withstand the rigors of winning a general election,” Anderson said.  “That should be the true winnowing process.  We do not have a national primary today, so measuring only national polls is absurd and illogical.”

If Priebus is serious about not wanting the debates to be a “dog-and-pony-show,” he would use his influence to make sure serious and hard-working candidates like Jindal and Santorum are included in the main debate next month.

RNC Should De-Regulate the 2016 Presidential Debates

DebatesThis week members of the Republican National Committee gathered in Phoenix for the organization’s spring meeting. One of the big topics on the agenda was a discussion about what type of criteria will be used to determine who can participate in the twelve party sanctioned Republican primary debates.

In previous cycles, news organizations controlled every aspect of the debates, including when and where it would be held, who the moderator would be, and the criteria used to determine which candidates would be allowed to participate.   In an effort to limit the number of debates, the RNC took the entire debate process over, and now is beginning to realize that there are some negative side effects that come with calling all the shots.

The biggest conundrum the RNC must try to solve is how to pare down the current field of candidates so that there can be an actual debate amongst the candidates. There are currently six officially declared candidates, another seven who are formally exploring a presidential run, and three others who have pending announcements planned. That’s 16 candidates, and the crazy part of all this is that these are all legitimate candidates. The list includes four current U.S. Senators, one former senator, four current governors, four former governors, and three political outsiders.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times wrote an interesting article about this, with great insight from the campaigns that may find themselves on the bubble. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza provided a glimpse of what the debate stage may look like if traditional criteria were used. Donald Trump, who Cillizza loathes, would be in, Santorum, Kasich, Graham, Jindal, Fiorina, and Pataki would be out. You can now see why this gives the RNC some heartburn.

I have always found it strange that the Republican Party, which supports free market ideas and opposes burdensome regulations, sought to highly regulate its own nomination process. The best thing the RNC could do is deregulate the debate process and let it all work itself out. Organizations, especially political ones, are always afraid of the unknown, but they would be wise to let go of the debate process.

The news media, some campaigns, and even a few activists have already begun to gripe about the weekly cattle-calls that seem to have taken the place of the debates. It used to be exciting to see all the candidates on the same stage because it was a rare occurrence, but now, the Republican presidential race resembles the NASCAR schedule where the teams all show up to race every weekend on the same track. What’s oddly missing in the Republican presidential race is actual campaigning.

Deregulating the debates actually makes a lot of sense when you have such an expansive and talented field of candidates. Instead of demanding each candidate’s participation, it should be optional given that there are risks and rewards to both participating and not participating in a televised debate.

Allow yourself to game plan this out in your head a bit. In Iowa, where Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum are all courting the evangelical/born-again Christian vote in the state, let them duke it out on the stage. If Sen. Rand Paul and Governor Scott Walker want to partake in the fun – the more the merrier. Even though a number of major formidable candidates would likely not participate, such a debate would prove to be very helpful to Iowans and other social conservatives who have not yet made up their minds as to who to support.

Maybe in South Carolina there is a debate on foreign policy. One would imagine that most of the candidates would participate in a debate on that subject, but who knows. Let the candidates decide which debates they feel are in their best interest to participate in, and let the news organization hosting the debate figure out the criteria used to determine who is allowed to participate.

Let’s be honest, the perceived frontrunner is probably not going to attend all the debates, given that they often become contests in which the only way one wins is to not get attacked by another candidate. The underdogs are going to ride the circuit and participate in every debate they are allowed to be in. The fact of the matter is that all the campaigns are going to have to strike the right balance of debates to participate in.

There is also a risk once the RNC criteria begins to exclude certain candidates. Once candidates are excluded, then there is no reason for them avoid accepting invitations from local news organizations or new media outlets where they might debate other candidates who also weren’t allowed to debate. On its face you might not think it would be all that interesting, but a debate between Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina would actually be pretty interesting.

The RNC would be smart to take a step back and let the natural process take place. I would have more faith that everything will sort itself out if the RNC were not involved in the debates. It’s time to deregulate the GOP debates.

Quick Hits:

Road Trip

Every Friday, I do a radio segment on WTAD 930 AM. The show originates out of Quincy, Illinois, and can be heard in southeast Iowa. Last Friday I got up early and headed down to do the show in studio. A great time was had by all, and besides the regular hosts making fun of me, we also did an interview with former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

It’s hard not to like Rick Perry. Heck, it’s impossible not to respect the man after watching the video about his and his wife’s relationship with Marcus Luttrell. It gives me goose bumps just writing about it. I recommend that you take a couple minutes and watch the three-minute video below.

Anyway, near the end of our interview (18 min mark), Perry said, “You’ve got a big supporter of your Iowa Republican website in my wife. She reads it every day. So know that she’s keep up on what’s going on in Iowa.” I then quickly reminded him to make sure she’s not checking out the comment section. Sorry guys, but you can be a little cantankerous from time to time.

If any other spouse of a presidential candidate is a regular reader please let me know! Also, Mrs. Perry just joined Twitter. You can follow her @AnitaPerryTX

The Great Debate: Should a woman be a chairman?

It must have been a slow news day for the Des Moines Register. On Tuesday, Jennifer Jacobs devoted way too many words on the subject of whether Iowa women find it offensive that Carly Fiorina said that she was a “chairman” of a certain board when she was in town last week.

When I asked my wife about it she just gave me a puzzled look, like she didn’t understand what I was even talking about or why this would actually bother anyone. Anyway, it’s apparent that Jacobs couldn’t find anyone at the event who was put off by it, so she found some Democrats to make it an issue. I wasn’t at the event, but somebody who was sent me the following.

“The only debate that was ‘fueled’ by the Fiorina Chair comment was Jennifer Jacobs being annoyed.  Seriously. Jacobs walked around the room asking people for their feedback on it.  When she didn’t get the answer she was looking for, she moved on to someone else until she did. It was ridiculous.”

I bet when Jennifer was in grade school, her report card often said, “has trouble making friends.”

I would have been shocked if George Stephanopoulos didn’t give to the Clinton Foundation.

Politico reported on Thursday that ABC NEWS’ George Stephanopoulos donated a total of $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation from 2012 to 2014. Conservatives were in an uproar that the journalist, who has moderated presidential debates in the past, would donate to a Clinton affiliated cause. Stephanopoulos has apologized and said that he will not be moderating any 2016 presidential debates.

Frankly, I don’t really understand what the fuss is all about. Stephanopoulos is where he is today because of Bill Clinton. In 1988, he worked for Michael Dukakis, then he worked for Dick Gephardt when Gephardt was the Majority Leader in the U.S. House. He played a major role in Bill Clinton’s campaign and then was often in front of the camera during Clinton’s first term. He left the White House and began a media career with ABC News. Sure he has a partisan background, but he’s also pretty good at what he does. And he really owes a lot to Bill Clinton. So I’m not surprised he is a contributor to the Clinton Foundation. But it’s also probably a good thing that he won’t be moderating any debates, not so much because of the donations, but because of his personal relationship with the Clintons.

If Republicans are in up in arms over Stephanopoulos donating $75k, they are probably really pissed at Donald Trump, who gave the foundation $105,000.

Jindal Shows Some Spine – The Weekly Round Up

jindal_vp_ap_imgBesides Governor Chris Christie’s visit to Iowa on Monday, there isn’t much going on in Iowa on the presidential front. Even with the inactivity on the ground here, Republicans considering a run for president have making news elsewhere. Here is what got my attention this week.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal Gets It

Jindal slammed the Republican National Committee this week for their decision to control every aspect of the 2016 Republican presidential debates.

“I know there is a lot of concern, especially in this town among Republican party leaders,” Jindal was quoted saying. “There’s this ideal of theirs, this idealistic belief, that if we could just have fewer debates, if we could have a gentler, kinder nominating process, that would be good for the party and good for the nominee. Well you know what? Democracy is messy.”

When Jindal says that the RNC wants a kinder, gentler, nominating process, what he’s really saying is that the RNC is stacking the rules to favor whoever is the national frontrunner. Why Jindal is the lone candidate to express his displeasure with the RNC is beyond me.

I wrote the following on January 6th.

The RNC has also inserted itself in the number of presidential debates that will be held, who will conduct them, and where they will be held.  All of these changes would have greatly benefitted Romney in 2012, but they will also help whoever the national frontrunner happens to be.  In 2016, the odds on favorite to be the well-financed national frontrunner seems to be Jeb Bush.

There will only be one presidential debate in Iowa before next year’s caucus, just one.  Does that benefit the conservative candidate who needs to take a shot at the national frontrunner? Of course not.  Does that help the candidates on the ends of the debate stage who already struggle at getting time to speak?  Of course not.  Limiting the debates helps one person – whoever is the national frontrunner.  And in terms of the 2016 race, that’s Jeb Bush.

I’ve not been overly impressed with Jindal’s approach to a potential 2016 campaign, but I will say his strong stand against the RNC impressed me greatly because it takes guts to tell the RNC that he will not abide by their rules.   Why others like Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and others are not making similar arguments is beyond me. The deck is being stacked against you. Speak out!

Perry’s New Gig With Oil Pipeline Could Cause Him Problems in Iowa

You would be hard pressed to find a Republican activist in the state of Iowa who opposes the Keystone pipeline. However, when the issue gets localized, the politics tend to change. This is a lesson that former Texas Governor Rick Perry may figure out in the months ahead.

According to the Des Moines Register, Perry joined the board of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is proposing to build an underground pipeline that would cross the state of Iowa. No big deal right? Wrong. Perry is a big states’ rights guy, and I have no doubt that he is also a strong advocate of personal property rights.

The proposed pipeline was actually a topic of discussion at my own 2012 precinct caucus, as one of my neighbors owns farm ground where the proposed pipeline would go. It was a very frank and passionate moment. He doesn’t want to have his cropland disturbed for a pipeline that will be owned and operated by a private company.

Stay tuned. This issue could get really interesting.

Mike Huckabee: Oversees Tour Guide or 2016 Presidential Candidate?

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is preparing for a 10-day trip to the Holy Land, dubbed the Israel Experience 2015, which will last from February 14th to the 24th. A press release announcing the trip stated, “Huckabee will lead more than 250 people from across America and experience Israel’s heritage from a Biblical and historical perspective.”

If you recall, last November Huckabee lead a group of Iowa evangelical leaders on an all-expense paid trip to Poland, England, and finally the Reagan Library in California. When Huckabee isn’t traveling abroad, he’s traveling around the country selling his book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.

Huckabee’s book tour included Iowa stops, and he participated in Congressman Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit in January, and he has confirmed his participation at the Iowa Ag Summit. To my knowledge, Huckabee is also expected at a homeschoolers’ conference and another social conservative confab in the coming months.

Almost everyone I talk to is convinced that he’s running for President, but I’m skeptical. The main reason is his travel schedule in Iowa. Sure he’s coming to the large multi-candidate events, but he’s not showing up at county GOP functions or holding his own political events. In the last couple of years, everyone from Ted Cruz to Ben Carson to Rick Santorum to Carly Fiorina to Bobby Jindal to Rand Paul have been done those things. Only Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Huckabee have not.

Walker couldn’t do much since he was running for re-election, and Bush campaigned all across the country for 2014 candidate but avoided Iowa like the plague. It can also be said that Walker and Bush, the two perceived frontrunners in the race, can get away from doing the chicken dinner circuit.

I don’t know, instead of playing tour guide, I would think Huckabee would want to be visiting Iowa more if he was serious about running for president.

Must Read – Christie Flip Flops on Common Core

Candidate comes to town, answers a few questions to your liking, and then you read the rest of the story. Check out this article from NJ.com.

The governor who tells it like it is, who speaks from the heart, is now sucking up to the Republican base with a calculated flip-flop on Common Core, the program to establish national standards for educational achievement.

Here is what Christie said in August of 2013 in New Jersey:

“We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the President than not. And with Secretary Duncan. I think part of the Republican opposition you see in some corners in Congress is a reaction, that knee-jerk reaction that is happening in Washington right now, that if the president likes something the Republicans in Congress don’t. If the Republicans in Congress like something, the president doesn’t.”

Here is what he said in Iowa on Monday:

“I have grave concerns about the way this has been done, especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things. And that changes the entire nature of it, from what was initially supposed to be voluntary type system and states could decide on their own to now having federal money tied to it in ways that really, really give me grave concerns. So we’re in the midst of re-examination of it in New Jersey. I appointed a commission a few months ago to look at it in in light of these new developments from the Obama administration and they’re going to come back to me with a report in the next, I think, six or eight weeks, then we’re going to take some action. It is something I’m very concerned about, because in the end education needs to be a local issue.”

The two positions are miles apart.

Walker’s Inexperience on Display in London Trip

Scott Walker was a treated like a rock star following his first 2015 trip to Iowa in January. His junket to London this week is a different story.

Walker was asked several times different foreign policy questions at Chatham House, a policy institute, avoiding all of them, repeatedly saying he didn’t want to weigh in while on a trade mission on foreign soil.

When asked whether the United States and Great Britain should do more to combat ISIS, Walker said, “That’s certainly something I will answer in the United States in the future.”

Walker also avoided answering a question about his views on evolution during the event, but later tweeted, “Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible and go hand in hand.”

2016 Republican National Convention Date is Set

Jacobs field ClevelandThe Republican National Committee announced on Thursday that its 2016 national convention will be held from July 18th through 21st in 2016.  After selecting Cleveland, Ohio, as the site of the convention last year, the RNC said that the convention could have been held as early as June 28th.

The July 18th start date, while a month earlier than in 2012, will compress the caucus to convention calendar in Iowa.  If the caucuses are held on Monday, February 1st as currently planned, that leaves only five months for Iowa Republicans to implement their caucus to convention process when you consider that delegates to the national convention must be turned into the RNC 45 days in advance of the national convention.

Here is what the Iowa caucus to convention calendar may end up looking like.

Monday, February 1, 2016 – Iowa Caucuses
Saturday, March 5, 2016 – County Convention
Sunday, March 27, 2016 – Easter
Saturday, April 12, 2016 – District Convention
Saturday, May 14, 2016 – State Convention
Friday, June 3, 2016 – Turn in Delegates to RNC
Monday, July 18, 2016 – Republican National Convention

To be honest, it could be much worse.  Compressing the caucus to convention process will require the Republican Party of Iowa and its county GOP organizations to be well organized, and it would be wise to have the locations for the county, district, and state conventions already locked up in advance of the caucuses.

On a positive note, compressing the convention calendar may actually keep more people and candidates engaged.  It’s also nice that it is possible not to have conventions on Mothers or Fathers Day weekends.

How Mitt Romney and Terry Branstad helped paved the way for Jeb Bush in 2016

Jeb BushWe all remember that old saying, “be careful what you wish for.”  The saying is often followed by some version a warning that the wish may actually come true.

While presidential politics may appear to be on a repetitive four-year cycle to a novice observer of the craft, in reality, American politics is constantly changing.  No campaign cycle is ever alike.  Not only do the faces of the candidates change, but so do the issues and the rules that govern both party’s nomination process.

In March of 2013, I made my annual trek to the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, which is held in the Washington DC metropolitan area every year.  Following another disappointing year at the ballot box for Republicans, my goal at the conference was to get a glimpse of what is in store for Republicans in 2016.  My top priority during my stay there was to attend a dinner that was being keynoted by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Following the event, I wrote, “The dinner at which Bush spoke at was packed, but the former governor of Florida was unable to create much buzz at the conference. His speech offered a perspective that deserves attention, but the CPAC crowd seemed more polite than interested.”  I labeled Bush as one of my “losers” of the 2013 CPAC conference.  Nothing from that speech made me believe that he possessed the ability to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 even if he wanted to be a candidate.

As we sit at the dawn of the 2016 presidential race, I have a completely different take on Jeb Bush’s chances to win the Republican nomination.  Oddly enough, it’s not based on anything Bush has done in the past two years.  Instead, it’s the actions of Mitt Romney and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad that have increased Bush’s presidential odds and, whether you like it or not, made him the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

The changes that Romney’s campaign pushed thought at the 2012 Republican National Convention have been well documented.  The goal was simple and understandable for someone like Romney who essentially had the nomination wrapped up before the convention. Ron Paul’s unwieldy delegates in Tampa made life difficult for the Romney campaign, and thus rules to bind delegates to the outcome of each state were adopted by the Republican National Committee.

In addition to binding the delegates, the RNC has also compressed the nominating calendar and made it easier for states to hold winner-take-all primaries.  These changes were all done with one thing in mind – speeding up the nomination process in 2014.  This is a direct attempt to end the prolonged primary fight Romney had in 2012 with Rick Santorum who won 11 states and was competitive with the Romney in big states like Michigan and Ohio.

The RNC has also inserted itself in the number of presidential debates that will be held, who will conduct them, and where they will be held.  All of these changes would have greatly benefitted Romney in 2012, but they will also help whoever the national frontrunner happens to be.  In 2016 the odds on favorite to be the well-financed national frontrunner seems to be Jeb Bush.

There will only be one presidential debate in Iowa before next year’s caucus, just one.  Does that benefit the conservative candidate who needs to take a shot at the national frontrunner? Of course not.  Does that help the candidates on the ends of the debate stage who are already struggle at getting time to speak?  Of course not.  Limiting the debates helps one person – whoever is the national frontrunner.  And in terms of the 2016 race, that’s Jeb Bush.

It’s ironic that the rule changes pushed by the Romney campaign in 2012 are now benefitting someone outside of Romney’s sphere of influence.  For the better part of 2014, but especially since the conclusion of the mid-term elections, there has been a behind the scenes back and fourth between those still loyal to Romney and those supportive of a Bush candidacy.  The reason for this bickering is not ideology, but politics.  All of those consultants who pushed for these changes did so thinking that it would help their candidate of choice in 2016.  However, with the emergence of Bush, some of these consultants may find themselves hurt by the very rules that wanted to see enacted.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s insistence that there not be an Iowa Straw Poll also will helps clear a path for Bush.  Branstad has not endorsed a 2016 candidate and may never do so, but it is no secret that he is a big fan of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  The presence of the Straw Poll for years has created heartburn for numerous candidates, but especially for frontrunners who have little to gain by participating in the event and everything to lose.

Since the end of the 2014 election, Branstad has once again called for the end of the Straw Poll.  In its place, Branstad has suggested that regional events without a voting component could be held.  The Republican Party of Iowa will meet on Saturday to discuss the future of the event, but even if there is a Straw Poll in Ames this coming August, Branstad’s criticism of the event has already had an impact on the credibility of the event.

Branstad’s repeated criticism of the Ames Straw Poll makes it easier for candidates to avoid the event.  In previous cycles, candidates who didn’t participate in the event were basically forced to throw in the towel on Iowa all together.  No candidates had a legitimate reason not to participate.  In essence, Governor Branstad has signed a permission slip to skip the event for any candidate who doesn’t want to participate.  Again, the obvious candidate that helps is the frontrunner who doesn’t want to get bogged down and forced to spend a lot of money in Ames.

A diminished Ames Straw Poll allows candidates to approach Iowa differently.  The event forced candidates to set up shop in Iowa early so that they could organize and turn out supporters to the Straw Poll.  Now candidates can organize with just the caucuses in mind.  It also allows a well-financed frontrunner to use paid media like TV, radio, and direct mail to interface with potential caucuses goers.  Simply put, candidates can approach Iowa more like a primary than a caucus in 2016.

I have been surprised at the number of articles that have been published about Jeb Bush’s weaknesses.  Opinions on another Bush presidential candidacy vary greatly depending on one’s own personal political ideology.  Establishment types can see a clear pathway for Bush, while conservatives believe he is past his prime and nothing more than a lamb being led to his slaughter.

I’d caution anyone who doesn’t take a Jeb Bush presidential candidacy seriously.  The points raised by his critics are valid.  Bush’s last campaign was more than 12 years ago.  Politics and life as we know it have changed greatly during that time.  In 2002, Bush was widely accepted as a conservative Republican.  Today he’s viewed as a moderate establishment Republican whose views on education and immigration are out of step with the activists of his party.  And let’s not forget about Bush fatigue.  Is anyone really clamoring for a third member of the Bush family to occupy the White House?

The good news for Bush is none of that may really matter.

Every candidate who runs for president in 2016 will have to maneuver around obstacles in their paths, not just Jeb Bush.  Yet, while Bush does have some unique hurdles to clear, he also has a number of advantages. Besides his last name and appeal to big money donors, the advantages ushered in my Mitt Romney and Terry Branstad’s effort to diminish the Ames Straw Poll have done more to pave his way to the 2016 Republican nomination than anything else.

Again, be careful what you wish for.

Cleveland Rocks – The Weekly Round-Up

Jacobs field ClevelandThis week the Republican National Committee announced that it would hold it’s 2016 national convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland edged out Dallas, Texas, the other finalist city.

Cleveland, a Democratic stronghold, might seem like an odd choice for Republicans to spotlight their 2016 presidential nominee, but Ohio is a critical battleground state, and let’s face, is there any major metropolitan city that is a Republican strong hold? Of the countries 100 largest cities, only nine have Republican mayors.

Cleveland landing the RNC’s national convention is a big deal and it will surely provide an economic boost to the community, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that Cleveland is on a roll. In April, the Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Manziel, which immediately injected a lot of excitement into the team. Now they have landed the RNC convention, who knows, LeBron James could be on his way home.

I find the selection of Cleveland to be an interesting choice. I would also remind people that it’s not the city that hosts the convention that we want to focus to be on in June or July of 2016, it will be the Republican nominee for President. I pray to God that he or she will be more interesting than the city that is hosting the convention. Which is also why it’s probably a good thing Las Vegas was eliminated early in the process.

From all accounts, Cleveland did an outstanding job of not only selling their city to the RNC selection committee, but it seemed the most committed to raising the type of money it takes to host a convention of this size. The convention center is only one year old, and five new large downtown hotels will be completed in time for the RNC convention. It’s also possible that large cruise ships could be brought in to house delegates to offer lodging closer to the downtown area.

Another factor in the selection of Cleveland was their flexibility when it came to the date of the convention. Cleveland allows Republicans the ability to host the convention as early as June 28th or as late as July 18th. Both are much earlier than the late August date the convention was held in 2012.

The national convention date will impact Iowa’s caucus to convention process. A June 28th date means the latest the Iowa Republican state convention could be held would be May 10, 2014.   That means the caucuses could be held on Monday, February 3rd, county conventions on March 8th, and district conventions on April 12th. The 2016 Republican nomination in 2016 is going to be a sprint, not a marathon.

Ernst Readies for Deployment 

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst deploys for her yearly active-duty training at Fort McCoy today. Ernst will be unable to do any campaigning or fundraising for the next two weeks. The Republican Party of Iowa is already using her deployment as a way to get Iowa Republicans to step up while she continues to serve her country.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Braley and the Democrats are going to use the two-weeks. As we saw in the Republican primary, it’s not wise to attack someone who is currently on active duty.   Braley is likely to just say that he’s a member of the National Guard, too, and take a couple of weeks off.

Ernst Backs Off Impeachment of Obama

Back in a U.S. Senate forum in her hometown in January, Ernst called for impeaching President Obama over his use of executive orders. TheIowaRepublican.com was at the event and reported about her comments.

Here is what we reported on January 16, 2014.

[quote]Ernst seemed very comfortable debating in her home county.  She was calm, cool, and collected throughout the debate.  The one controversial thing that Ernst said came when she answered a question about President Obama’s use of executive orders and his willingness to bypass Congress on a number of issues.  Ernst stated that the President had become a “dictator” and expressed frustration that our elected leaders are not standing up to the administration.  She then suggested that Obama’s overreach is grounds for “impeachment.” [/quote]

Ernst has taken a lot of heat over her statement in recent days, especially after former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was an early supporter of Ernst, joined the impeach Obama movement. Now it appears as if Ernst is changing her tune.

Ernst told The Hill on Tuesday, “To be clear, I have not seen any evidence that the president should be impeached, I obviously do not believe the president is a dictator, but his repeated use of unilateral action sure makes him look like one.”

The Ernst campaign was quick to call the criticism over her remarks about President Obama hypocritical. David Kochel, an Ernst campaign consultant, told The Des Moines Register: “It’s hilarious watching Democrats hyperventilate about Joni Ernst answering hypothetical questions about impeachment, when the fact is, Bruce Braley voted to proceed with impeachment articles against Dick Cheney. There’s a big difference between answering hypothetical questions about impeachment and actually voting for it. Braley backers have egg on their faces today.”

Kochel nailed it. There is a big difference between answering a question on the campaign trail and actually voting for impeachment. It’s shocking how pathetic the Braley campaign is. Perhaps getting a free pass in the primary didn’t help Braley prepare for the general election.

Iowa’s Young Guns – Miller-Meeks, Blum, and Young

Earlier this week, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that Rob Blum and Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks had obtained ‘Young Gun’ status, the top-tier of the committee’s recruitment program. This is an important designation as it should help both Blum and Miller-Meeks attract financial support on a national level. Getting this designation early is also critical. David Young, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District already obtained ‘Young Gun’ status.

Davenport to Become a Sanctuary City?

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba has commissioned a team of people to look into providing refuge to some of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children that are illegally crossing the U.S. boarder. President Obama recently asked Congress for $3.7 billion for new detention centers, judges, and legal aides. Gluba wants people in his community to welcome these kids into their homes with open arms.

“These are kids that need to be accepted by the American people,” Gluba told the Quad City Times. “I think the people of the Quad-Cities are good people who will open their homes and their hearts and we’ll figure out how to deal with this on a temporary or a long-term basis.”

Should Gluba be successful in relocating some of the border children to Davenport, Iowa taxpayers would then pick up the cost of educating them. “It is our job to educate every child in our district without exception,” Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate told the Times.

Meanwhile, Congressman King injects some commonsense in to the debate demanding that the southern board be secured. “If the President is not going to close that border, then I’m calling upon the border governors to call up their National Guard, order their National Guard to the border and seal the border,” King told Newsmax TV.

RNC Votes to Protect Iowa and the Frontrunner

If you didn’t know better, you would think that Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, was unfairly victimized by a set of arcane rules that favored long shot candidates in the Republican nomination process over more main stream candidates.

Yes, Romney won the 2012 Republican nomination, winning all but 13 states and one territory.  Yet, apparently the gauntlet that is our presidential nominating system that allowed him to amass 1,462 delegates compared to Rick Santorum’s 234 delegates or Ron Paul’s 154 delegates was unfair to the candidate who was considered the Republican frontrunner as soon as the 2008 presidential election was in books.

Why was it unfair you ask?  Because the nomination process as we knew it demanded that the candidates who sought the Republican nomination work for it.

The Republican National Committee gathered in Washington D.C. this past weekend to pass new rules and procedures for the upcoming presidential cycle.  Making changes to the way we nominate our presidential candidates is a worthwhile endeavor.  Times change.  Technology changes.  Lots of things change.   And while some of the changes that the RNC made over the weekend are needed changes, the majority the changes to how we nominate presidential candidates are designed to give the national frontrunner a major advantage over his or her competition.

Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller wrote last week, “On Thursday, the RNC’s Rules Committee, continued to ease the path for better-funded establishment candidates to avoid the type of ‘long slog’ against poorly-organized and under-funded candidates that Mitt Romney was subjected to.”  Miller’s observation about the goal of the RNC’s Rules Committee is spot on, but why are Republicans so hell bent on changing the rules to help candidates with every conceivable advantage in the book like high name ID, strong poll results, and ample financial resources?

Maybe instead of changing the rules regarding how we nominate candidates, we should instead examine the faults and failures of the Romney campaign.  Lets face it, not only did Romney lose the general election, but he failed to put up a fight.  We all remember his cowardness on the issue of Benghazi, and it’s not like he took it to the President on Obamacare or religious liberty issues either.

Now fourteen months later, the RNC is passing a set of rules that will make it easier for candidates like Romney to win the Republican nomination for president.  Is this what is in the best interest of the Republican Party?  In many ways, the nomination process as it was previously constructed was a gauntlet.  Only the strongest survived, and yes, the strongest even included guys like John McCain and Mitt Romney.

The Republican National Committee approved rules changes Friday by a vote of 153-9, which is designed to have the 2016 nomination begin the first week of February with the Iowa Caucuses.  All primaries and caucuses will conclude in mid-May.

Here are the rule changes:

Four Early Contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada

These contests are slated to begin with the Iowa Caucuses during the first week of February 2016.  The New Hampshire primary would follow a week after Iowa, with South Carolina and Nevada holding their contests later that month.  Major penalties are in place for states that move ahead of the four official states or hold winner-take-all contests before March 15th.

This is a much-needed reform.  In the past two presidential cycles, large states like Florida and Michigan have moved their primaries up in the calendar, which then caused the four early states to move their contests in front of them.  This is what caused the Iowa Caucuses to be held on January 3rd in 2008 and 2012.  Nobody likes it, it is difficult for the candidates to campaign around the holidays, and it makes the nomination process long and drawn out.

States that Award Proportional Delegates March 1-14

States that hold their primaries and caucuses between March 1st and March 14th will be required to award their delegates proportionally, which will ultimately weaken the impact of those contests.  The states can set a threshold as high as 20 percent for a candidate to obtain delegates.  States that hold their contests after March 14 can award their delegates winner-take-all.

Blackwell Amendment: Virginia National Committeeman Morton Blackwell offered an amendment that would have lengthened the proportional delegate window from the first two weeks to the entire month of March.  Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker told TheIowaRepublican.com that he voted for this measure, as did National Committeewoman Tamara Scott.  Even though the amendment failed, Spiker noted that under the rules of the last national convention, states could have began winner-take-all-contests on March 1st.  The two-week proportional window allows for the race for the Republican nomination to slow down a bit before going into the winner-take-all phase.

Winner-Take-All Period – March 15 to May

States that decided to conduct their contest after March 15th can award delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.

Many expect a large number of states to hold their contests during this period. This is where the candidate with the most money will have a huge advantage over their opponents.

Spiker told TheIowaRepublican.com that he has some issues with winner-take-all states, especially considering that the RNC is now requiring all states to bind its delegates to the results of its contest. “I’m fine with awarding all of a state’s delegates to one candidate so long as they get fifty plus one percent of the vote,” Spiker told TheIowaRepublican.com.  “On the other hand, I don’t think we are respecting the will of the delegates if we award all of the delegates to a candidate that got just 30 or 35 percent of the vote.”

What does it all mean?

Spiker voted in favor of the rules because, “It benefits the Iowa Caucuses, and thus it benefits the Republican Party of Iowa.”  Spiker said that everyone ended up giving up something in end, but having Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucuses protected, and having a guarantee that the caucuses will be held in early February and not early January is a big win.

The rules and calendar changes approved at this meeting are part of a larger effort to overhaul the nominating process in the Republican Party.  At an earlier meeting, the RNC passed rules that will require states like Iowa to bind its delegates based on the results of the caucuses.  The committee will meet again this spring to discuss creating rules to limit presidential debates.

While many of these rules and calendar changes are needed, condensing the nomination process will only make it more difficult for lesser-known candidates, most of which are conservatives, to have a shot at winning the nomination. The new calendar provides a huge advantage for candidates who can amass a campaign war chest that allows them to run ads and deploy staff in multiple states.  These same candidates are the ones who will also likely benefit from having a Super PAC attack their opponents as a state’s primary or caucus nears.

The impact that the changes will have on the 2016 nomination process are unknown.  Even though it appears as if the changes will help whoever is the Republican frontrunner in 2016, what if that frontrunner is a conservative and a more moderate challenger is shut out?  Nobody really knows what this will all mean in the long run, but anytime you condense the process, you are going to aid the person who enters the race as the frontrunner. 

Other Related Items

Spiker talked about how the new calendar would impact Iowa’s Caucus to Convention schedule.  All delegates to the national convention must be certified with the RNC 45 days before the national convention.  The earliest date being considered for the 2016 National Convention is the week of June 27th.  That means the latest the Iowa State Convention could be held is May 7th.  Spiker said it would be more likely that the state convention would be held sometime in April.

Spiker supported another Blackwell amendment that would have required all delegates to be certified 35 days before the National Convention.  Spiker said those extra ten days are a lot.

Here is a possible caucus to convention calendar for Iowa in 2016.

Iowa Caucuses: Monday, February 8th
County Convention: Saturday February 27th
District Convention: Saturday, March 19th *
State Convention: Saturday, April 23rd
* Easter is on March 27th 

Scheffler Elected to RNC Site Selection Committee

Steve Scheffler, Iowa’s National Committeeman will play an integral role in determining where the Republican Party will hold its 2016 National Convention.  The top contenders include, Kansas City, Columbus, Denver, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

The site selection committee will travel to each of the cities and make its recommendation to the Republican National Committee later this year.  Scheffler told TheIowaRepublican.com, “I’ve attended seven national conventions, and there are a number things like accessibility, local support for the convention, quality and size of the venue, and the proximity of hotels to the convention center that will all play a roll in which city will be get the committee’s recommendation.”

How the Iowa Delegation Voted:

Chairman A.J. Spiker and National Committeeman Steve Scheffler voted in favor of the rule changes.  National Committeewoman Tamara Scott was one of nine votes against the new rules.