At 2016 Iowa summit, some fresh GOP faces …

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2016 GOP race explodes with flurry of campaign activity.

With a field of candidates that is set to be the Republican party’s largest and most ideologically diverse in years, presidential hopefuls have been forced to hone their campaign messages early amid fierce competition for support. The past week alone has featured an explosion of high-level campaign moves as Republican candidates gathered staff, kowtowed before donors and prepared to make direct pitches to voters for support.DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Protesters have heckled Republican presidential prospects Rick Perry and Chris Christie over immigration policies during a conservative political forum in Iowa.

“If you want something said, you ask a man; if you want something done, you ask a woman,” she told the crowd, adding “Now I’m ready for Hillary, are you?” “It’s a tough decision; it’s a big decision to decide whether to run for office or not.DES MOINES — The most wide-open Republican presidential nomination campaign in memory had its unofficial opening here on Saturday at a gathering that highlighted anew the thorny path ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party’s conservative base without compromising their hopes of winning a general election.With a list of speakers as distinguished as you’ll see at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), most of the people who have spent at least five minutes thinking about being the 2016 Republican presidential nominee were there.Video: Saturday was a try-out day for potential Republican presidential candidates at the Iowa Freedom Summit, an event full of nine hours of speeches.Known for his feisty oratory, the senator from Texas won enthusiastic applause from more than 1,200 social conservatives packed into a historic Des Moines theater to hear from at least eight Republicans contemplating bids for the White House, as well as more than a dozen others popular with the party’s base, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

At the first large gathering of prospective candidates on Saturday in Iowa, Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who is a favourite among the party’s grassroots voters, tested the theme of restoring “the miracle of America.” Scott Walker asked the summit’s 1,200-strong crowd to “go big and go bold,” and to choose a candidate committed to the kind of aggressive conservatism that has been his hallmark as governor of Wisconsin. I’m still contemplating,” Palin said then, calling the option “earth-shattering.” A few weeks earlier, she had shown up at a clambake in New Hampshire the same day that Romney declared his candidacy for president in the same state.

With the exception of Jeb Bush (conservatives are not his crowd), Bobby Jindal (he was hosting a spiritual revival event in Louisiana), Marco Rubio (“Gang of 8” amnesty and Mr. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Texas Senator Ted Cruz were among the many speakers, but it’s what Donald Trump had to say about potential candidates Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush that really got people talking. Some 1,800 miles away, in San Francisco on Friday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush purposefully sketched out a more moderate course, promising “adult conversations” on policy should he decide to mount a bid.

Whether that’s true depends entirely on how many of those who attended are still standing one long year from now—and how many of those who didn’t attend (Jeb Bush, Rand Paul) have campaigns that are still alive and well. Cruz told Iowans that they need to use their status as the first in the nation to vote on presidential nomination races to force Republican candidates to prove they’re conservatives, not just accept their words that they are. The event does serve as a gauge for a candidate’s willingness to pander, and it is the beginning of serious media scrutiny for all the candidates as 2016 candidates, not as quaint spectacles (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz) or interesting anomalies (Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina)…. or familiar former presidential candidates, who made up a non-shocking majority of the featured speakers (Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin).

So it’s entirely possible I missed a key stretch of her decline that would help make sense of, or have prepared me for, the word-salad-with-a-cup-of-moose-stew that she presented. In an effort to demonstrate his bona fides to the right — at one point he described himself as “severely conservative” — Romney took positions on immigration and taxes that dogged him throughout the fall campaign. If he runs again, Santorum said, he wants to put forward a more forward-looking agenda. “Americans feel the division and we’re sick of it,” he said, adding that he wants Republicans to do more than just bash Democrats. In his highest-profile visit to Iowa, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won a warm reception as he sold himself as a battle-tested warrior in the fight for conservative values, citing death threats to himself and his family and outlining his experience taking on organized labor. Walker thrust himself into national prominence four years ago, when he used Republican legislative majorities to restrict collective bargaining for most public employees in his state.

But it is also likely to include candidates who are more difficult to pigeonhole, such as Mr Walker, Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who has built a reputation as a libertarian, and Florida senator Marco Rubio, who has clashed with his own party on immigration reform. It’s too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change, with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo!

Steve Schmidt, who was John McCain’s campaign chief in 2008, said running for the nomination is a character test of the candidates, a proving ground for delivering a message without being overly swayed by any particular audience or segment of the party. Donors have already expressed concern that the field may be too unpredictable to marshal fundraising behind one or two big names early on in the process, as they had hoped, to build a war chest large enough to compete in a general election with presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle class and everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’” The speech (perhaps a generous description) went on 15 minutes past the 20 minutes allotted other speakers. Expect to get a good sense of candidates’ emerging stump speeches as they work to distinguish themselves in front of conservative activists ahead of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next year. And even as she ended it, one sensed less a crescendo than the specter of a gong, a hook to pull her off, or—a sincere thought I had—an ambulance to take her… somewhere. Wearing a tie, but with no suit coat and sleeves rolled up, Walker thanked Iowans for the financial and spiritual support they offered during his recall election fight. “In those darkest of times, we needed it,” said Walker, who also noted that he had spent part of his childhood in Plainfield, Iowa. After back-to-back shellackings — first against a nearly unknown first-term U.S. senator, then to a highly unpopular president — the party has no choice but to go in a new direction, and that path does not lead back into the wilderness.

Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky will participate in a live panel discussion on Sunday at a donor conference led by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch in Palm Springs, California. Steve “Cantaloupes” King (with the help of Citizens United) and many pundits fretted (or eagerly anticipated) 47-percent-style gaffes in the service of speakers trying to out-xenophobe each other. With a 2014 re-election campaign of his own back in Wisconsin, Walker has spent far less time in Iowa than most of his fellow Republicans at the summit. Organised by Iowa representative Steve King, who ardently opposes immigration reform, Saturday’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” was billed as a beauty contest mainly for the party’s more conservative contenders.

In the days leading up to the event, Mr King had attracted criticism on both sides of the aisle for referring to a guest of first lady Michelle Obama’s at last week’s State of the Union address, a Mexican immigrant who was unauthorised when she was brought to the country, as a “deportable.” Mr Romney and Mr Bush both skipped the Iowa gathering, citing their schedules, and the establishment favourites’ absence did not go unremarked on. Santorum did some under-the-breath dog whistling in reference to legal immigration, positing that the U.S. is home to more non-native citizens than ever before. Donald Trump, the property developer who says he is also considering a 2016 bid, drew some of the loudest cheers of the day when he slammed both men as weak and past their prime. He contrasted those non-native-born workers to, ahem, “American workers.” As far as I know, if you work in America, you are an “American worker.” Unless Santorum is thinking of something else.

In his remarks, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson mostly stuck to a speech similar to one he delivered in November to another large group of Iowa social conservatives. In what was mostly an introduction to voters who’ve never heard of him, the governor opened with his travails during a statewide recall vote, when his family faced threats and one anonymous opponent vowed to “gut my wife like a deer.” “Since I was elected governor, we’ve cut taxes in Wisconsin, we’ve reduced spending, we balanced the budget, we took the power away from the big-government special interests and we put it firmly in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers. The Word tells us you shall know them by their fruits.” Mr Walker, lesser known than many of the potential candidates appearing on Saturday, also stood out, delivering a rousing speech that focused on his record in Wisconsin, where he has restricted the collective bargaining rights of organised unions and lowered taxes. Mr Christie, the most moderate potential candidate to appear at the daylong event, was well received as he worked to win over a sceptical audience, in part by emphasising his pro-life stance.

The moves puts him closer toward a run despite speculation that Bush’s entrance in the race might split his base of Florida supporters and make a campaign difficult. He beseeched the audience to look for a candidate that was “positive, principled, and proven”—all while explicitly taking himself out of the running.

But his bootstrap message resonated with attendees, who heartily cheered when he said: “The measure of success in government is how many people are no longer dependent on the government.” Another new face on big stage belonged to Ben Carson, who famously spanked President Obama over his health care overhaul during the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. In what could have been a direct jab at his fellow guests, he quipped, “The principled candidate is not necessarily the guy who yells ‘Freedom!’ the loudest.” He could have been quoting Elizabeth Warren when he softened typical GOP bootstrap rhetoric: “Freedom doesn’t mean ‘You’re all on your own,’” he said, “It means, ‘We’re all in it together.’” Elizabeth Warren would approve. A report on Friday by the Center for Public Integrity found that many of Romney’s bundlers, who raised millions for the candidate in 2012, are still undecided on whether to stick with Mitt for another run. Meanwhile, as television vans and political entourages swarmed into Des Moines on Friday, Romney’s advisers were in Boston holding a meeting to talk through his possible candidacy. The world-famous surgeon also talked God, a big topic in Iowa: “You don’t have to have a PhD to talk to Him, you just have to have faith.” He vowed that as president, he would have a secure southern border within one year, and pledged to reduce the size of government so “they don’t have time to stick their big noses in everybody’s business.” The crowd whooped at that line.

Santorum also met recently with Foster Friess, the wealthy conservative who almost single-handedly kept his campaign afloat in 2012 by funding an outside super PAC allied with his candidacy. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, also debuted, and delivered several spectacular lines, none better than this aimed at a certain Democratic former secretary of state: “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe.

In the years since the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which opened PACs up to unlimited donations, the political environment has become such that all it takes is one friendly billionaire to justify a run. Not everyone exploring a campaign will necessarily do so, but the sheer number of high-profile Republicans aggressively prepping for 2016 this month suggests the primary is going to be crowded. On that topic, she said: “Politics can no longer tinker on the edges … The potential of America is being crushed by the weight of government.” And her appearance made for a stark contrast, as Mrs. And he strived to win the Most Like Reagan award every one of these forums should feature (“We will together bring back that shining city on the hill that is the United States of America”). “All candidates will say they’re the most conservative. ‘Gosh darn it, hoodiddly, I’m conservative.’ Well, you know what, talk is cheap,” he said before quoting the Bible. But a party determined to show that it could govern responsibly also put on a messy display over legislation to restrict abortions, with House leaders having to pull one measure after some female members objected to it before later passing another bill that called for new federal restrictions.

Assuming the establishment is eventually able to winnow it down to just one, history shows this candidate has a floor/ceiling of 18 percent to 25 percent depending on environment. It’s pretty hard to win Iowa when you don’t show up for either of the last two mega events hosted by the state’s two most influential conservatives — Bob Vander Plaats and Mr. Christie asked: “If I was too blunt, too direct, too loud and too New Jersey for Iowa, why do you people keep inviting me back?” Unlike the other stage pacers, Mr. But he warned: “If you want a candidate who agrees with you 100 percent of the time, I’ll give you one suggestion — go home and look in the mirror: You are the only person you agree with 100 percent of the time … If that’s the standard we hold each other to as a party, we will never win another national election — ever,” he said. Terry Branstad, in a telephone interview Friday morning, sought to play down the importance of Saturday’s forum, saying it was just “one of many events you’re going to see” in Iowa over the next year.

He called Obamacare a “filthy” lie, vowed to fix Social Security and Medicare, but he won the biggest cheers when he talked about who voters shouldn’t pick in 2016. “It can’t be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed,” The Donald said to loud applause. “And you can’t have Bush,” he said about a summit no-show, Jeb Bush. “The last thing we need is another Bush,” he said, drawing even louder cheers. One is developing a reputation for dissing important elements of the Republican Party or of not being sufficiently in sync ideologically with the base, both potentially fatal politically. “If you don’t go into those events and define yourself, you will be defined by your absence,” said Jeff Boeyink, the former chief of staff to Branstad and a Christie supporter for 2016. “One thing I admire about Christie, he’s not afraid to go anywhere.” Candidates have their own concerns about this. At the same time, candidates must remember they are always speaking to multiple audiences at the same time — those in the hall and those who might be watching around the country — and to avoid what Brabender called a bidding war “to show they’re even more extreme on some issue than the person who spoke before them.” Schmidt pointed to past examples when in his view candidates passed up opportunities to show their character. At a debate in Iowa in the summer of 2011, the candidates were asked whether they would accept a budget deal that included $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in new taxes. At a Florida debate that year, some member of the audience booed a gay solider who asked the candidates about the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Despite the media speculation surrounding their potential candidacies, there is nothing substantive happening in Iowa so far that would indicate either is seriously contemplating mounting a run. (Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)

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