Don’t Get Fooled Again? Whatever.

Deace and Trump
Photo by Dave Davidson –

My social media feeds have been entertaining to say the least ever since it became abundantly clear that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

On one hand, you have members of the GOP establishment throwing a temper tantrum because, for the first time in decades, they didn’t get their way. Then there are the Cruz supporters, who bought stock in the campaign’s narrative that given a choice between Cruz and Trump, people would embrace the Texas Senator.

Yeah. Not so much.

One of Cruz’s chief propagandists, conservative shock-jock Steve Deace, has also taken the Texas Senator’s defeat hard. Apparently after Cruz dropped out of the race on Wednesday, Deace told his radio audience that he’s going to, “troll like a mother,” all of the people like Mike Huckabee who have come out and endorsed Trump. “I’m going to scorched-earth them all, and I’m going to enjoy doing it, actually. Maybe more than I should.

The next day, Deace lit into Huckabee, but not without some serious self-promotion where he attempted to take all of the credit for Huckabee’s 2008 win in the Iowa caucuses. Was Deace helpful to Huckabee in 2008? Of course. Was his over-the-top endorsement influential? Certainly. Especially since, at the time, he commanded the microphone of the state’s most listened-to talk radio station.

So if Deace was powerful enough to practically raise Huckabee from the dead, why has he not been able to produce similar results when his good buddy Bob Vander Plaats ran for governor, or when he was supporting his 2012 presidential candidate of choice, Newt Gingrich? The truth is that Huckabee’s charm and personality won people over in 2008. The exposure on WHO Radio helped, but there was a heck of a lot more involved in Huckabee’s rise in Iowa than Steve Deace.

What’s more humorous than Deace taking all the credit for Huckabee’s 2008 victory in the Iowa Caucuses is his sudden hatred of Donald Trump. Sudden is a relative term, but let’s be honest, Deace’s hatred of Trump elevated substantially once the race essentially came down to Trump and Cruz.

Just like the candidate he endorsed, Deace spent the summer enjoying what Trump was doing to the GOP establishment. On August 6th, just a couple weeks before he would formally endorse Cruz, Deace wrote, “The new attacks on Trump — he’s not really a Republican at all. From the same people who constantly tell us we need a ‘big tent’ of course.”

Deace went on to add, “I can’t get enough of him face-palming these GOP liars, bed-wetters and thumb-suckers. Watching him run roughshod over this party that has lied to, betrayed, and failed us so many times is the most fun I’ve had in politics since kicking the teeth in of some state Supreme Court justices.”

And even though Donald Trump has been on both sides of a number of issues throughout the campaign and insulted dozens of people along the way, it’s not like Trump is being any different than he’s been for his entire adult life. It’s not like all of a sudden people are just starting to realize that he is a megalomaniac.

So it’s kind of ironic when people like Steve Deace warn us all that he’s going to “troll like a mother” on everyone who supports Trump when not all that long ago he was asking Trump for interviews, posing for pictures, and oh lets not forget, asking Trump to endorse one of his books.

Deace obviously asked Trump to endorse his book, “Rules for Patriots, How Conservatives Can Win Again.” Trump wrote, “If you want to be able to say ‘you’re fired’ to the people plunging this great country of ours down the drain, this book is for you. Steve Deace is one of the rising stars in conservative media, and he’s able to tackle serious subject matter in a winsome way that’s so easy to understand, even a Washington, D.C. politician can get it.”

Now, Deace isn’t the only one who’s suddenly fed up with Trump. Iowa Congressman Steve King also fits that description. Last week, he told reporters that Trump would have to, “earn” the support of conservative Republicans.

King told Fox News Latino, “I’m not compelled to unconditionally endorse Donald Trump right now,” King said. “It’s up to Donald Trump to start the process of uniting the party now. The healing of this party cannot be done by anyone except Donald Trump.”

King felt differently in 2014 when Trump flew to Iowa to headline a fundraiser for his re-election campaign. It was a nice fall event, a little cold, but nothing like the cold shoulder Trump is getting now from some Iowa conservatives.

King Trump
Photo by Dave Davidson –
Trump King2
Photo by Dave Davidson –


The real irony is all of this is that, had these Iowa conservatives used their access and influence to truly vet Donald Trump in the years leading up to the 2016 presidential race, things may have been different. Sure, Trump’s candidacy is unique, but had people actually taken him seriously from the time he started visiting Iowa, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are now. Who knows.

Is Chris Christie Ready to be a Solo Act in Iowa?

ChristieNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie made his 13th visit to Iowa on Monday when he kicked off the Dallas County GOP’s speaking series at the West Des Moines Marriott. The event was a fundraiser with the minimal price for attendance being a $25 contribution to the local county Republican Central Committee. Organizers had RSVPs for 65 people, which is about how many showed up for hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and a 40-minute speech from the New Jersey Governor.

Christie didn’t really roll out any new material during his latest foray into Iowa. Between his speech at Governor Branstad’s birthday party last fall and his speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit a few weeks ago, Christie stuck to his typical material. Instead, what struck me as I watched Christie deliver his remarks on Monday night was how different things are for him on trip number 13 than they were for him on his earlier trips to Iowa.

Christie was a rock star when he made his first trip to Iowa in October of 2010 to help Branstad raise money for his campaign against Governor Chet Culver. Since then, Branstad hasn’t been shy about utilizing Christie’s star power to raise money for his 2014 re-election campaign or help other Republican candidates or organizations that could use a boost with a Christie headlined event.

The Branstad/Christie combination in Iowa has been beneficial to both men. While Branstad has used Christie to raise money, Christie has used Branstad to network with influential Iowans who could be helpful if Christie were to ever run for president. And while the national media may be down on Christie’s presidential chances in 2016, no candidate has done more legwork in Iowa in advance of 2016 than Christie.

The big question that remains to be answered is how well will Christie will perform in Iowa as a solo act. Christie is used to playing to packed rooms full of people who are supportive of Governor Branstad or a cause that is near in dear to Branstad’s heart, like Congressman Steve King’s 2012 re-election campaign in 2012, the Team Iowa dinner in advance of the 2012 elections, or one of the 2014 congressional races in eastern Iowa last fall.

Monday night’s event in West Des Moines was good, even though Christie himself seemed a little flat. Part of the reason for that may be the fact that he was speaking to a group of 60 or so activists instead of a packed room of hundreds of people. I don’t know if its fair to say that Christie’s star isn’t shining as brightly as it once was, but on the other hand, I couldn’t shake the fact that the guy speaking to a room of 60 people in West Des Moines was the same guy who provided the keynote address for the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Christie mentioned a couple of times that his stop in Iowa on Monday night was his 13th visit to Iowa. While I have not kept track of every visit he has made to the state, I do know that most of his visits to Iowa have been to the Des Moines area. Those types of visits served him well in getting to know some key people, but if Christie wants to rekindle the Iowa magic he once had, he needs to go out and meet people in other parts of the state. Contrary to popular belief, there is more to politics in Iowa than the greater Des Moines metropolitan area.

Christie Touts Conservative Accomplishments

Christie spent a significant portion of his speech laying out all the conservative accomplishments he has had in New Jersey. Every candidate does this, but it is an especially important task for someone like Christie who governors a blue state and doesn’t have a legislature that will help him enact his agenda.

Christie noted that his state has 8,000 fewer state employees than when he first took office. Christie also boasted that New Jersey spends $2.5 billion less today in discretionary spending in their state budget than they spent in fiscal year 2008, seven years ago. Christie then stated, “I don’t think there’s a lot of governments across this country that will be able tell you that they’re actually spending less than they did seven years ago. That’s leadership, and that’s discipline.”

Christie Asked about Gambling

Republican activist, Sarah Bowman of Waukee, asked Christie about his stance on the expansion of gambling. Bowman is the Chairman and President of Iowa Conservatives Against Gambling Expansion, a group that recently petitioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to veto proposed new Indian Casino in Wisconsin.

Christie provided a pretty generic answer to Bowman’s simplistic question. “I’ve told anybody that asked me about the expansion of gambling that it’s no panacea, and people really need to understand its restrictions and limitations,” Christie stated. He went on to talk about the casino industry in Atlantic City and how it was devised to work as a monopoly and not an industry that would have to compete with other states that offer gambling.

Christie made it clear that he doesn’t hold any ill will against the gambling industry. He said that, in New Jersey, they are all “good corporate citizens.” But he made sure to appear not overly enthusiastic about the industry either. Christie added that gambling is “not going to be a salvation, and any politician that gets up and tells you, ‘Have gambling and we’re going to fund this forever,’ — It’s not going to happen that way.”

The answer seemed to satisfy Bowman who posted multiple pictures of herself and her husband with Christie to her Facebook page. It seems odd that someone who is so passionate about the gambling issue didn’t ask Christie about his support of legalized sports betting that he signed into law this past fall. The issue is now tied up in the courts.

Does Iowa Push Republican Candidates to the Right?

IowaLast weekend’s conservative confab in Iowa has once again drawn the ire of some national political pundits.  Cokie Roberts, a News Analyst for National Public Radio and frequent guest on ABC’s Sunday morning show, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, is the latest to not only criticize the event held by Iowa Congressman Steve King and Citizens United, but to call for Republicans avoid Iowa altogether.

“I think Republicans should stay out of Iowa altogether,” Roberts said on This Week the day after the Iowa Freedom Summit. “What happens to them is that they get pushed so far to the right in those venues that it gives them a terrible time in the general election.”

Stephanopoulos agreed by saying the state hurt Romney in 2012.  Roberts went on to say, “It hurts them all. And, by the way, Steve King, who hosted this, is absolutely toxic in the Hispanic community. And if the Republicans want to get that vote, they shouldn’t be showing up at a Steve King event.”

Okay, let’s break this down.

Frist, I would like to know how Iowa hurt Romney in 2012.  Yes, it’s true that he ultimately didn’t win the Iowa Caucuses, but he lost to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by just a 34 votes.  Let’s also not forget that Romney avoided Iowa for much of 2011.  In fact, he really didn’t begin to engage in Iowa until a month or two in advance of the caucuses.

We also shouldn’t forget that Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses on caucus night.  Sure, it was just a narrow victory, but a victory nonetheless.  It was significant because they initially got a victory despite shunning the state for almost an entire year.  More importantly, with Romney having a commanding lead in the New Hampshire primary, the Iowa win created a real sense of inevitability for him to win the Republican nomination.

It took two-and-a-half weeks for the Republican Party of Iowa to certify the vote and declare that Santorum actually won Iowa, not Romney.  That ordeal hurt Santorum, not Romney, and furthermore it does not discredit what Romney was able to do in Iowa with very little investment.

The 2012 caucuses proved that a national frontrunner and establishment candidate [Romney] can win Iowa if they run a disciplined campaign.  It also proved that hard work, dedication, and retail campaigning [Santorum] trumps huge amounts of money spent on television ads.  And let’s not forget that the 2012 Iowa caucuses proved that a libertarian candidate [Ron Paul] whose views don’t entirely matchup with mainstream Republican thought can do well if he or she works hard and organizes.

The results from the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses proved to the rest of the country that, despite all of the negative things that are said about the caucuses, Iowa is a competitive state.  We saw three candidates, with three different approaches, who represent three different wings of the Republican Party all do extremely well.  We might not be diverse when it comes to color or culture, but when it comes to the diversity of thought, Iowa proved the naysayers wrong.

Second, Cokie Roberts is misinformed or naive if she thinks that the Iowa caucuses push candidates to the right.  As mentioned earlier, the results from 2012 already show that a moderate establishment candidate, a social conservative, and a libertarian type candidate can all build enough support in Iowa to win the caucuses.  The one instance that the media likes to drag out from the 2012 campaign to prove their point is Mitt Romney’s position on illegal immigration.

Romney said that he supported a policy of “self deportation” in a January 24th presidential debate in 2012.  Below is the exchange.

“Governor Romney, there is one thing I’m confused about. You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say that they would have to go back to their home countries and then apply for citizenship. So, if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?”

Romney answered, “We’re not going to round people up.” He went on to explain that financially struggling undocumented immigrants would choose to return to their home countries of their own volition. “The answer is self-deportation,” Romney stated, “which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”

So let me get this straight.  Iowa is to blame for Romney’s right of center views on immigration, but he didn’t role out his “self deportation” line until three weeks AFTER the Iowa Caucuses in a debate in FLORIDA.  I’ve never understood how Iowa pushed Romney to the right when he hardly campaigned here anyway.  I don’t doubt that Romney and his campaign advisers chose to that position for strategic reasons, but I never thought it had anything to do with Iowa because they never made it an issue here.

I understand that regardless of what transpires, the caucuses will always be criticized by someone or some campaign.  It’s just the nature of politics.  My only request of those in the media who like to criticize the Iowa Caucuses is for them to actually come here so that they can have an informed opinion of our state and process. I’ve seen a lot of nationally known reporters in Iowa, but I’ve never seen Cokie Roberts.

If you are going to offer an opinion on something, it should be an informed opinion.

Immigration was discussed at last week’s Iowa Freedom Summit, but not all the candidates talked about it.  Scott Walker didn’t talk about it.  Neither did Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, or Carly Fiorina.  You wouldn’t think that if you had listened to some of the coverage of the event.  As I reminded reporters before the event, Congressman King doesn’t give the candidates talking points and say, “here, read this.”  It’s up to each candidate to deliver the message he or she wants to provide.  If you actually paid attention to the event this past weekend, that was pretty clear.  Maybe Cokie Roberts only watched the highlights on the Jon Stewart show, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Walking away with It – Walker Shines at Iowa Freedom Summit

WalkerpicThe event overall

The Iowa Freedom Summit, a joint venture between Congressman Steve King and Citizens United, was a success before one candidate took the stage on Saturday. The nine-hour long event featured a number of high profile 2016 presidential candidates and attracted over 1,000 attendees and over a hundreds and fifty credentialed media. The event was viewed my many as the official kickoff of the 2016 presidential race in Iowa.

While the event was a success politically, it could have been even better. The main issue was the venue, a 1920’s auditorium that lacks modern bathroom facilities and common space to accommodate a large crowd over the course of an entire day. The venue is suitable for plays and shows that last only a few hours, not an all day conference.

The program was also a problem. While the event began at 9 a.m., the first potential 2016 candidate didn’t take the stage until almost 11:30. A total of 23 speakers took to the stage, and all of them were given 20 minutes to speak. Had they given the speakers 15 minutes to make their case, they could have shaved almost two hours off the event. Citizens United’s David Bossie didn’t help matters either by offering lengthy introductions.

Despite the issues, the event was nothing short of a success. King and Citizens United have to be happy with the turnout and the number of high-profile Republicans who attended. If they plan to host a similar event in the future, they would be wise to either make it a two-day affair or limit the number of speakers to only those who are serious presidential contenders, and they should also find a modern venue that can handle a large crowd.

– Craig Robinson

The brainchild of Congressman Steve King, this event lured many of the most prominent Republicans in the country to Iowa, with a throng of national media in tow. There is no doubt it was a high profile affair that is being viewed as the official kickoff to the 2016 Iowa Caucus season.

Overall, because of the amount of big name speakers on hand, enormous media attention and the potential impact on the Iowa Caucuses, the first Iowa Freedom Summit was a success. However, it was not without issues.

The venue, chosen by co-sponsor Citizens United, was subpar. Hoyt Sherman Place is great for film screenings and plays. It’s terrible for any kind of all-day event, especially one with as many attendees as this one. There was not sufficient space for the media, for parking or for people needing to use the restroom.

There was also a very large waiting list of people wanting to attend the event. They were shut out due to the severe lack of space. There are plenty of venues around central Iowa that could have accommodated everyone.

I also think organizers should have tinkered with the format to allow for panel discussions and things other than almost 9 ½ hours of nothing but speeches. Keeping the speakers within their allotted 20-minute time limit would have helped as well.

-Kevin Hall

The Top Three

1. Scott Walker

Walker set the bar high for the potential 2016 presidential candidates with his speech right before the lunch break. Walker, dressed in button-down shirt, tie, and rolled up sleeves, sent a clear message with his remarks that, despite the hostile political climate in Wisconsin, he was able to bring big change to his state.

Walker’s record of conservative accomplishments was a known strength coming into the event. The big question mark was his ability to fire up Iowa activists who are looking for someone to get them excited. The Wisconsin Governor easily cleared that hurdle. In addition to promoting his record of accomplishments, Walker talked about the recall election and what he and his family have had to endure. It was a nod to the audience that his mettle been tested, and despite all the scrutiny, he was still able to accomplish major reforms in his state.

A funny story about his experience at Kohl’s department store also hit an appropriate tone as it communicated that he is just like your typical Iowan. It was abundantly clear that Walker has more in common with regular Iowans than some of his opponents who are worth millions of dollars.

While the event was billed as the kickoff to the Iowa Caucuses, Walker used it as his own coming out party. Nobody had a better day in Iowa than Walker.

-Craig Robinson

I believe Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stole the show. Out of all the speakers, Walker’s stood out the most and helped his presidential aspirations the most.

Walker was smart to lay out his amazing list of accomplishments: Voter ID, defunding Planned Parenthood, rejecting Obamacare, reforming the stage budget, etc. He also recounted the price he has paid as a conservative warrior. It includes death threats on himself and his family.

Perhaps more than anything, Walker’s delivery helped him the most. He is not known for being a great orator, but that image has quickly changed. Walker’s speech was fiery, it was uplifting and it resonated. The one candidate who improved his chances of winning Iowa the most was Scott Walker.

-Kevin Hall

2. Ted Cruz

From the minute he was introduced, Senator Ted Cruz had the audience eating out of the palm of his had. The event was tailor-made for Cruz because his ideology is identical to Congressman King’s. Cruz staked out his turf in the 2016 presidential race by making it clear that he is the conservative warrior that people are looking for. Cruz’s presence in the race is problematic for other social conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Cruz also made a play for support from the more libertarian leaning Republicans when he sat down with Liberty Iowa supporters at a nearby hotel.

-Craig Robinson

The Texas senator is already wildly popular with Iowa conservatives. That was obvious from the huge ovation Cruz received when he was introduced. Cruz’ frequent visits to Iowa over the past year and a half, coupled with his penchant to be a fighter have endeared him to likely Iowa Caucusgoers.

Cruz did not disappoint his fans with his speech, either. He was full of fire and delivered a healthy dose of conservative red meat. He was also smart to remind the crowd that he has a strong record of fighting for the issues they hold dear.

Cruz basically challenged the rest of the field to prove they will fight for issues like he has, such as repealing Obamacare, rejecting Common Core, etc. The crowd loved Cruz and he solidified his status as a top contender for the 2016 Iowa Caucus.

-Kevin Hall

3. Carly Fiorina

One would be hard pressed to find a potential 2016 candidate who helped himself or herself more than Carly Fiorina did. Fiorina’s activities in Iowa have been flying under the radar, but she’s made some very shrewd moves. Her speech on Saturday accomplished a couple things. One, she made it known that she’s a conservative. Two, she made it known that she’s a legitimate presidential candidate. I figured she would impress, but I was surprised how well the audience received her.

-Craig Robinson

The former Hewlett Packard CEO narrowly ekes out a third place finish, in my opinion. Carly Fiorina has not spent a lot of time in Iowa and most attendees were likely hearing her speak in person for the first time. That unfamiliarity quickly turned to appreciation.

Fiorina electrified the crowd toward the end of her speech. It built to that climactic finish with an excoriation of pro-abortionists, liberal hypocrites and ineffective GOP leaders. Fiorina concluded with a devastating rip of likely Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” she said. “But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”

Those lines resulted in perhaps the biggest crowd eruption of the entire day. The GOP field needs a credible female candidate that can confront Hillary. I think we found her on Saturday.

-Kevin Hall

The others (alphabetically)

John Bolton

The former U.N. ambassador, as expected, focused his entire speech on national security and foreign policy. Unfortunately for John Bolton, he immediately followed Newt Gingrich, who focused on the exact same issues. Newt is masterful at explaining complex issues. Bolton’s speech was interesting, but was largely an afterthought that was overshadowed by the other speakers.

-Kevin Hall

Ben Carson

It was abundantly clear on Saturday that Iowa Republicans are eager to hear what Dr. Carson has to say. The audience keyed into every word that came out of his mouth. His speech was more conversational than others. It’s clear he has tremendous potential, but I wonder how he will hold up when the race requires him to respond to and critique his opponents.

-Craig Robinson

The crowd loved Ben Carson. It is a reaction that continues to play out with every visit here. Carson is not a fiery speaker. In fact, he’s the exact opposite. Very low key, very soft spoken. Yet, Carson connects.

Dr. Carson was given a huge ovation when he finished. His remarkable personal story, mixed with a genuineness and good sense of humor help Ben Carson appeal to people. His rejection of political correctness is also greatly appreciated.

Carson might have been hurt by being the first of many possible presidential contenders to take the stage on Saturday. His speech might have been largely forgotten at the end of the daylong event. I think Dr. Carson helped himself Saturday, but not as much as Walker, Cruz and Fiorina did. Still, he remains a force to be reckoned with in Iowa.

-Kevin Hall

Chris Christie

The New Jersey governor knows he has a lot of work to do to appeal to Iowa conservatives. Chris Christie’s speech was tailored for that purpose. He stressed his close ties with Congressman King, his pro-life beliefs and his penchant for bluntness. Christie vowed to always be upfront and honest with Iowans. They will appreciate that.

An illegal immigration protester inadvertently helped Christie by interrupting his speech. The crowd automatically sided with Christie and that protestor bolstered the New Jersey governor’s immigration stance in the eyes of conservatives.

I think Christie helped his candidacy a little. He still has a long way to go to prove himself to conservatives. Saturday was a good start.

-Kevin Hall

Mike Huckabee 

The classic Huckabee charm and charisma were on display on Saturday, but that’s a given. What surprised me was what Huckabee seemed to want to accomplish with his speech. Huckabee called on Republicans to stop spending their time attacking each other, and he then went on to clarify his position on Common Core education standards. Like the other candidates who have sought the Republican nomination for President before, Huckabee was outdone by the newer faces that are now contemplating a presidential run.

-Craig Robinson

The 2008 Iowa Caucus winner was the last speaker of a very long day. Mike Huckabee is still beloved by many Iowa conservatives, so the audience responded well. However, Huckabee’s anecdotal style of speechmaking hinders him in this format, I believe.

He delivered a good speech, as usual, and the crowd agreed with what he was saying, but he did not delivered it in a style that makes you want to run through a brick wall for him. Others did. Huckabee was outshined by more than one speaker. His candidacy cannot afford many of those instances.

-Kevin Hall

Sarah Palin

I thought Palin’s speech seemed out of place at the Iowa Freedom Summit. In the midst of all these serious speeches, it was like we took a commercial break for something more lighthearted and less important. Now don’t get me wrong, Palin had a few good lines, and there were plenty of people in the audience who seemed to appreciate what she had to offer on Saturday. I just thought her speech was really long and lacked any sort of cohesive message or theme.

-Craig Robinson

This was the worst speech I’ve heard Sarah Palin deliver. She’s made several visits to Iowa since 2008 and those speeches were generally good. This one was not. It was disjointed, her delivery was grating and it was way, way too long. Palin delivered the longest speech of the day, by far, abusing the 20-minute time limit.

-Kevin Hall

Rick Perry

Rick Perry is another Republican governor with a long list of accomplishments to brag about. When Perry entered the 2012 race, he filled a void, but now he has completion for that space from Walker and maybe others. Much has been made of Perry’s lackluster performance in 2012. Delivery wasn’t a problem on Saturday, but like the others who ran in 2012, he needs to find a way to standout in a much more crowded and formidable field of candidates.

-Craig Robinson

The Texas governor continued his string of solid speeches in Iowa. Rick Perry is vastly improved from his 2012 run. His speech connected with the audience.

Perry was rudely interrupted by a group of illegal immigration protestors, who were then shouted down by the crowd. The protestors wound up helping Perry because the entire audience rallied to his side. Perry ignored the interruption and continued with his speech. He did well.

-Kevin Hall

Rick Santorum

Santorum’s speech in Iowa on Saturday began exactly where he left things on caucus night when he spoke about kneeling by his grandfather’s casket and looking at his hands. Santorum, who is mostly identified as a strong social conservative, continued to focus on the populist theme that carried his campaign once the 2012 race moved on from Iowa. Santorum’s speech focused largely on the issue of immigration, but he tied it in with his blue-collar jobs theme. His speech was loaded with good content, but it didn’t make for a speech that revved up a conservative crowd hungry for red meat.

-Craig Robinson

This is not the Rick Santorum of 2011-12. Long before he rose to the top of the Iowa polls, Santorum’s speeches at multi-candidate events stood out. Not able to match the oratory skills of some of his competitors, Santorum often struck a more somber tone, talking about the personal and political battles he has waged. Those speeches connected and helped him slowly build his long shot candidacy into a winning effort in Iowa.

Instead, Santorum continued with the mantra he has used over the past year, focusing on the GOP’s need to reach out to the American worker. He is absolutely right, but Santorum’s speech was no different from what we have heard before from him and he did little to stand out amongst the 29 other speeches we heard.

Santorum, like Mike Huckabee, needs to step up his game if he wants to win Iowa again.

-Kevin Hall

Donald Trump

Trump’s remarks about how Mitt Romney choked in 2012 and how the last thing the country needs in another Bush in the White House have gotten the most attention. It’s easy to understand why, but during the first portion of his speech, I thought Trump actually sounded like a presidential candidate. If Trump is serious about running for president, and his itinerary suggests that he is, he’s going to have to find a way to make the media take him seriously. Some people complain that people like Trump are allowed to participate in these events. Let me just say I don’t think the inclusion of Trump was the problem on Saturday.

-Craig Robinson

No one was more blunt Saturday than Donald Trump. The real estate mogul told it exactly the way he sees it and in large part, exactly how most of the crowd sees it. He eviscerated President Obama. He shamed Republicans for not doing more to keep Obama in check.

Most notably, Trump ripped national GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, saying neither would win, in less than polite terms. Trump also made a laundry list of promises if he became president. It was basically a top 10 list of conservative wishes. The crowd liked it, but I suspect most attendees are skeptical that Trump is serious about running.

-Kevin Hall

County GOP Activists Pressure Congressman-Elect Young to Oust Boehner

boehnerRepublican activists in one Iowa County are calling on their newly elected member of Congress to vote against Representative John Boehner for Speaker of the House. Jeff Jorgensen, the chairman of the Pottawattamie County Republican Party, penned a letter to Congressman-Elect David Young on Sunday asking that he vote against Boehner.

The letter reads, “On November 4, 2014 Republicans won a resounding victory on behalf of the American people. The voters spoke on that day, and what they said was ‘STOP President Obama and his unconstitutional transformation of America.’ Since that time, President Obama’s agenda has been anything but stopped.”

Jorgenson went on to write, “It has become blatantly obvious that Speaker Boehner has been ineffective in opposing President Obama’s agenda since becoming Speaker in 2012. Simply put, Speaker Boehner has been politically out-classed, and will continue to be ineffective in mounting any kind of opposition that would roll back the President’s agenda.”

Janice Tatum, the committee’s co-chair, Myra Nixon, the committee’s treasurer, and Naomi Leinen, a member of the county’s executive committee, also approved the letter.

Boehner has been a frequent target of conservatives who are frustrated with the state of affairs in Washington. While some of the criticism of Boehner has been warranted, it’s a little unrealistic to believe that he or anyone else could “roll back” the things that the president has done since it would ultimately require legislation that would have had to pass the Democrat controlled U.S. Senate and then be signed by the President himself.

As for Young, he would seem unlikely that he would be one of the votes against Boehner. Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy both headlined fundraisers for Young’s campaign in Iowa. Boehner returned to campaign for Young in the closing days of the campaign. With Young’s demeanor and his background as a staffer on capitol hill, it seems unlikely that he will join in with those who are attempting to oust Boehner from the Speaker’s rostrum.

Iowa Congressman Steve King announced on Sunday that he will not be supporting Boehner for Speaker on Tuesday.

The vote for Speaker will occur on Tuesday.

Pott Letter

Congressman King: I will not vote support Boehner for Speaker

Steve KingIowa Congressman Steve King wrote an op-ed that was published on Sunday by explaining the he will not cast a vote for John Boehner for Speaker of the House of Representatives this coming Tuesday.

Below is a selection of King’s op-ed:

Conservatives have seen their initiatives blocked by the Speaker while he twisted arms for Obama. Our national debt is over $18 trillion. ObamaCare is fully funded. Obama’s executive amnesty is fully funded until February 27 without leverage to block the president’s lawless immigration policy thereafter. Constitutional conservative’s efforts to defend and restore the Constitutional authority of Congress are blocked by the Speaker.

On January 6, 2015, I will take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me, God.”

Then, I will be asked to put up a vote for John Boehner for Speaker. I know the pattern of his strategy and actions for the past 12 years to the point where I can predict the results. I am convinced Congress will not be allowed to restore its Constitutional authority under his Speakership and by refusing to do so, cannot call upon the courts to do so. How then, can I take an oath to the Constitution and put up a vote for John Boehner, almost in the same breath?

We need a Speaker who will help us all keep our oath, including his own, to the Constitution, not one who has consistently blocked our efforts to keep ours. I will vote for an alternative candidate for Speaker. I can’t vote for John Boehner again.


To read Congressman King’s op-ed in its entirety click here.

A Braley Charm Offensive? Good Luck With That – The Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.00.22 PMFor the first time since May, Congressman Bruce Braley is running a television ad that features him talking to the camera.  Typically, candidates running for a big statewide office like the U.S Senate want as much face time as they can get.  Braley, however, has avoided the camera and instead has used his campaign ads to attack his opponent, Republican Joni Ernst.

Braley’s latest ad features him talking about his efforts in Congress regarding Veterans.  While it’s about time that Braley himself made an appearance in his TV ads, the ad itself isn’t anything to write home about.  I understand why the Ernst campaign has focused heavily on Veterans issues; her service to the county is a key component to who she is as a person and leader.  Braley. on the hand, isn’t a veteran, but he seems determined to negate Ernst’s advantage with the group.

This is second time the Braley campaign has run an ad that attempts to sway veterans.  For the life of me I don’t know why his campaign is fighting so hard for the Veteran vote.  Look, I know it must be embarrassing for a member of the Veterans Committee to be getting beat up for missing hearings during the VA Hospital fiasco, but all he had to do is attend the hearings, and those attacks would never have occurred.

Braley is also attempting to soften his image.  This week Braley visited a nursing home with his mom in tow.  He was also waving around a pie that his mother apparently made.  Braley has an image problem, but with one month to go until Election Day, he doesn’t have enough time to deliver pies to all the nursing homes across the state.  It amazes me that Braley, who has been in the race since January of 2013, waited until October 2014 to start caring about his image.  I guess a bunch of poor poll numbers will do that to a person.

People seem surprised at how poor of a candidate Braley ended up being, but I think his purple campaign logo and the awful sleeveless campaign shirts were early clues.

Where is the Help for David Young?

In July and August, the two highest-ranking Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, headlined fundraisers for Third District Republican Congressional candidate David Young in Des Moines.  The events were low-key, but it was a good sign that Young was able to get them to come to Iowa on his behalf.

Since then, countless national figures have come to Iowa to help Republican candidates and political organizations in recent weeks, but it seems like Young is basically being ignored.  I understand why a sitting U.S. Senator like Ohio’s Rob Portman or South Dakota’s John Thune are helping Joni Ernst in her U.S. Senate race, but what I don’t understand is how high profile members of Congress, like Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Mike Rogers come to the Third Congressional District and help Ernst but not Young.

Young is in desperate need of money for his campaign.  Republicans love to make fun of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch for being broke and being forced to take down his TV, radio, and internet advertising, but Young is dealing with the same thing.  Young’s been dark on TV for a couple of weeks now.  He has canceled all of his reservations in the Omaha market, but he is expected to be back on the airwaves in Des Moines soon.

Donald Trump to Raise Money for Congressman King in Des Moines

Another candidate in need of an infusion of cash is Congressman Steve King.  As was tweeted by Des Moines Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs, Donald Trump will be in Iowa on October 18th to raise money for King.  Jacobs says the fundraiser will be held in a “gated neighborhood.”  I’m told it’s the same gated neighborhood that Ms. Jacobs’ father calls home.

Here is a copy of the invite.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 7.22.56 AM

What $443,000 gets you these days…

House 2You can buy this 2061 square foot ranch home in Johnston that sits on a third of an acre for $443,500, or you can buy one week of TV in the Des Moines media market (1000 points).  Omaha TV is more modest as 1000 points of TV will only set you back $210,000.

A lot of people hate it when the discussion of candidates and campaigns gravitate towards fundraising, but campaigns are not cheap.  If you want to know why Jack Hatch, David Young, and Steve King are not currently on TV, you now know why.  And don’t forget this is just for the air time – you still have to pay to produce the TV ad.

One Person Who’s Not Struggling In the Fundraising Department? Joni Ernst 

Ernst raised a whooping $4.5 million in the last three months, Braley raised significantly less, having brought in only$2.8 million.

What kind of house can you buy for $4.5 million you ask?

house1Well this four bed, five bathrooms, 6,500 square foot Urbandale home is on the market for $4.5 million.  The home’s owner, Mike Vermillion, says, “This is an Austin Powers kind of house.”

Yeah, baby!

Don’t feel bad for Braley, his $2.8 million would get him this five bedroom, six bathroom home in Urbandale.


Loras Poll: King in Good Shape, Blum’s Got a Shot in the 1st CD

blum and KingNewspapers and other media organizations will pay for statewide polls for presidential and gubernatorial elections, but their budgets don’t allow for congressional polling.  Public polling data for congressional campaigns is hard to come by, which is why the Loras College Poll of Iowa’s four congressional districts is unique.

The latest Loras poll gives us a peek into the four congressional races in Iowa, two of which are competitive open seats.  The poll shows that Iowa’s two incumbent Congressmen, Democrat Dave Loebsack and Republican Steve King, currently hold sizable leads over their challengers.

In Iowa’s Second Congressional District, Loebsack gains the support of 49 percent of the voters in the district.  Loebsack’s Republican challenger, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, trails by 17-points.  The result may surprise some Republicans as Miller-Meeks has run for congress twice before.  What is important to remember is that she is now running in a larger and reconfigured district than when she ran in 2008 and 2010.

While the new Second Congressional District is more favorable to Republicans than the one she previously ran in, she is relatively unknown in ten of the 24 counties in the district.  Not only is there a lot of new territory to cover, but those new counties make up 45 percent of the registered voters in the district, which means that, coming into the race, Miller-Meeks was unknown to almost half of the registered voters in the district.

Miller-Meeks has yet to begin her advertising campaign, which is probably another reason why she doesn’t do better against Loebsack.  Actually, Miller-Meeks’ number is similar to what the candidates in the 1st Congressional posted.  They are also relatively unknown to voters.  The downside for Miller-Meeks is that she is running against a sitting member of Congress.

Congressman Steve King is leading his Democrat challenger in the Fourth Congressional District 47 percent to 36 percent.  Jim Mowrer has been running television ads for over a month now, while King has yet to run TV ads of his own.  King’s 11-point lead is comforting, and King is also leading among independents.

The Loras Poll is really informative  in the open congressional races in the First and Third Districts.  The race in the First District between Democrat Pat Murphy and Republican Rod Blum is a dead heat.  Murphy leads Blum 35 percent to 33 percent, but the poll has a margin of error of almost six percent.  The good news for Blum isn’t just that he’s tied with Murphy, it’s that race is close with all segments of the electorate.

Among women voters Blum trails by only three points.  He trails with men by one point.  The good sign is that there isn’t much of a gender gap between the two candidates.  That said, Blum needs to do better with male voters, which Republicans typically do.  It’s also important to note that 38 percent of women and 24 percent of men are undecided.

As far as age demographics go, Blum trails Murphy by 11 points with voters age 18 to 34, but Murphy’s advantage then disappears.  Murphy leads with voters 35 to 49 by only four points, voters 50 to 64 by just two points, and Blum is winning with people 65 or older by six points.  More importantly, Blum currently leads independents by 11 points over Murphy.

Blum is in surprisingly good shape considering he is running for office in Congressman Bruce Braley’s current district.  Blum is also the first candidate to be on TV in the general election, which is also an advantage.  Television ads will help Blum become better known, but they can also help him target certain demographics of the electorate.

You know that it’s just a matter of time before Murphy and the Democrats unleash negative ads that are designed to scare women and senior citizens.  The Democrat playbook is already on display in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.  Blum actually has an opportunity to get out in front of those types of attacks by running ads that feature his wife and family.

His initial general election TV spot sets a perfect tone by talking about his humble upbringing and success as an entrepreneur.  With no gender gap to really worry about, Blum might be wise to feature his wife and kids in those ads.  In the primary, he ran an ad about his adopted son Malcolm, who he adopted after his mother died.  It’s an impressive story that tells you a lot about Blum’s character as a person.  I have no doubt that telling that story in a general election campaign would move numbers with female and older voters.

If there is one thing to take away from the Loras College poll, it’s that Rod Blum has a real shot at winning the First Congressional seat.  Republicans should be excited about this race.

The picture isn’t quite as bright and hopeful in Iowa’s Third Congressional District.  The Loras poll shows Democrat Staci Appel leading David Young 40 to 34 percent.  Much of Appel’s six-point lead on Young can be attributed to the fact that she has been running TV ads for over a month now.  Young just started running ads of his own, but his “Good Meal” hasn’t been well received.

Appel is leading Young in all the different age groups.  She leads him by seven with 18 to 34 year olds, two points with 35 to 49 year olds, seven points with 50 to 64 year olds, and nine points with seniors.   Young leads Appel with male voters by two points, but he trails her with female voters by 13.

Appel has a clear advantage in the race as her well-funded campaign has allowed her to run TV ads early and often.  Appel also deserves credit for her messaging.  Appel is a known liberal Democrat, but her ads have done a good job softening her image by focusing on mainstream issues like jobs, social security, Medicare and spending.  This past weekend the Des Moines Register published each candidate’s position on social security.  Appel’s answer began with “First, we should focus on growing the economy and putting more people back to work so they are paying into the system again.”  That is how every Republican candidate should being talking about Social Security.

Appel might have lost her re-election to the State Senate by 18 points, but she’s a much more disciplined candidate than she was back then.  Young needs to step up his game to cut into Appel’s lead on him.  In some ways I think his ads, while quirky, do fit with who he is, but let’s also not forget that all the ads that he ran in the primary only got him fifth place on election day.

With less than eight weeks to go, Republicans have plenty of work to do.  As I noted earlier, the congressional polling results have a rather large margin of error.  While that makes me question the results, I think the statewide sample was pretty good.  Still, when you only survey 300 people in a congressional district, there is a lot of room for error.

Overall I think the takeaways from the Loras Poll seem about right, I just question some of the numbers in the congressional polls.  Sadly, these are probably going to be the only public poll numbers we will see before election day.

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.