GOP presidential candidates face delicate balancing act

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Distinguished pol of the week.

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. 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.DES MOINES, Iowa – The budding Republican presidential race has kicked up a notch, after a slew of potential candidates played directly to the base at a forum in Iowa — an event that saw Sarah Palin back in the mix, Chris Christie proving he can mingle in the heartland, and Ted Cruz and others showing their fiery conservative chops.

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. In the coming months, the large field of candidates will feel a strong gravitational pull to the right by activists in a party that has become more conservative over the past eight years.

The daylong forum, billed as an informal kickoff to the 2016 campaign, was attended by about 1,200 people, many of whom ardently oppose the centrist views that tend to prevail in a general election. He called Mitt Romney a “choker” for losing the 2012 presidential race to President Obama, and then said that Jeb Bush’s brother – former President George W. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ran the Senate just as he promised, enabling him to crow: “We just cast our 15th roll call vote on an amendment on this bill, which is more votes — more roll call votes on amendments than the entire United States Senate [did] in all of 2014.” Sen.

The speakers, some of them experienced presidential campaigners, came to test and tweak their messages, to seek second chances and to introduce themselves to voters whose passion for conservative causes makes them more likely to attend a caucus and launch a candidate out of a field of contenders. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) had the definitive comment on the administration’s Iran policy, accusing the White House of relying on “talking points” from Iran. Two likely candidates who did not attend, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, were criticised by several who did — mostly in veiled swipes, rather than by name — over the Common Core educational standards and immigration reform, which Bush in particular supports. Some of the toughest criticism came from real estate mogul Donald Trump, who fired up the crowd by declaring there’s “no way” Bush or Romney could win in 2016.

Ted Cruz of Texas, a Tea Party hero, challenged attendees to demand that Republican leaders prove their conservative bona fides. “In a Republican primary, every candidate is going to say, ‘I’m the most conservative guy who ever lived,” he said. “You know what? Talk is cheap.” Rising to his own challenge, Cruz called for “the locusts” of the Environmental Protection Agency to be stifled and for padlocking the Internal Revenue Service, then redeploying its agents to secure the Southern border. “If you said you opposed the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, show me where you stood up and fought,” he said of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. “If you said you oppose Common Core, show me where you stood up and fought.” But Gov. Trump brutally exposed the potentially fatal weaknesses of the two Republicans who might well have broader appeal than any others on the presumptive Republican ticket (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, the lone moderate to speak, cautioned against requiring a candidate to pass conservative litmus tests. “If that’s the standard we hold each other to, as a party we will never win another national election,” he said. “I am here today because our conservative values work not only in Iowa,’’ he said, emphasising that he had visited the state 11 times in the past five years. “I’m living proof that worked for me in New Jersey.’’ Gov. 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.

Though he faced an icy reception at first, Christie appeared to win over the crowd, particularly after cracking a joke when an immigration protester started heckling him. “I didn’t expect him to be funny,” audience member Lisa Caldroon told afterward. Scott Walker of Wisconsin gave an energetic speech, strolling the stage with his sleeves rolled up and flattering the audience like a practised caucus contender. It is a gamble to be sure, but if he runs and loses there are worse things than going back into the private sector or running for something else down the road. If they believe in the God-given sanctity of human life, he said, they should also love the drug addict groveling on the concrete floor of a prison cell.

He acknowledged a “woman in Waterloo” who had donated three times to his campaign and thanked Iowans for their prayers during “the dark days” when he and his family received threats in his showdown with public employees’ unions. The chances of him running for president are roughly equal to the chances that Earth will be overrun by Ewoks by Memorial Day. (In other words, not very likely.) He was there for microphone and the money shots of his legendary hair. Walker offered a preview of a national campaign built on his record of defying teachers’ unions, as well as tens of thousands of protesters. “The Occupy movement started in Madison, Wisconsin, four years ago and then went to Wall Street,” he said. “So my apologies for that.” A few candidates advanced a concern about income inequality that is percolating within the party, discussing wage stagnation, an issue that has largely belonged to Democrats. I thought he did a really nice job.” The Des Moines summit included nearly a dozen Republicans who are at least flirting with a presidential bid, and served as a kick-off of sorts in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses — held in Iowa.

They should work to help the working poor, not by demonizing the rich, but by recognizing the dignity of those at both the top and the bottom of the economic ladder. “I want to suggest to all of you that truly being pro-life is not just being pro-life when that life is in the womb,” he said. “Being truly pro-life is being pro-life for the entire period that God gives that life.” Make no mistake; this is good politics, too. He said that any Republican coalition needed to include the “proud yet underserved and under-represented working class in this country.” Rick Santorum, the winner in the 2012 Iowa caucus, noted that for years Republicans had extolled entrepreneurs and business owners, adding it made more sense politically to “be the party of the worker.’’ Former Gov. He will get a chance to shine again in a panel discussion at a closed-door Koch brothers-related event, matching up against two less credible presidential contenders, Sens. When he was introduced, the weak and scattered applause was almost embarrassing. “It makes me nervous when they talk about bipartisan deals,” said Danny Carroll, a former state Republican chairman. “It ends up with them caving in way too soon.” But Christie doesn’t need to win in Iowa.

Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who won the 2008 caucus here, stressed that the falling unemployment rate did not represent an economic recovery for many people. “A lot of people who used to have one good-paying job with benefits now have to work two jobs,’’ he said. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who both have boilerplate anti-government stances and lack a pro-working and pro-middle class agenda of the type Rubio does. As speaker after speaker tossed juicy rhetorical titbits to an appreciative crowd, the gathering emphasised the challenges that the party’s less conservative candidates could face in right-leaning states with early caucuses and primaries, like Iowa and South Carolina. It was a gamut of electoral tests as a prelude to the final exam – an opportunity for candidates to hone their messages and gain a measure of campaign seasoning.

Those dynamics still exist, but they have perhaps been trumped by the danger of friendly fire, particularly for a Republican Party split between its establishment and populist wings. “One of the most important roles for the men and women in this room is to look each candidate in the eye and say, ‘Don’t talk; show me,’ ” he said, according to the Tea Party News Network. Steve King of Iowa, an avid opponent of an immigration overhaul. “We need to find a path to legalised status for those who have come here and have languished in the shadows,” Bush said. But in today’s media environment, where every gaffe and zinger is amplified by partisan blogs and 24-hour news, there is the danger that a candidate’s story can be irrevocably marred or rewritten before the “real” election even begins. It remains to be seen whether he pulls the trigger and runs for president, but he managed to keep himself in the limelight, avoid the obsequious trek to King’s event and maintain his stature on foreign policy. Steve King, R-Iowa — the congressman who organized the event along with Citizens United and is known for his strident remarks against illegal immigrants. (Christie called King a “great friend.”) “It was very surprising to me,” Vargas, who was arrested and then released after his outburst, told “We know what to expect from a Steve King or a Sarah Palin.

And that is to develop his brand as the big-tent conservative, the one politician who speaks from his heart, a guy so genuine that he can win the respect of voters on both sides of America’s Big Divide. With the exception of Christie, who is still trying to gain traction in Iowa, the more moderate wing was largely unrepresented in the audience and on stage.

In December, it proposed new rules that would drastically reduce the length of its presidential primary season, quarantining it to a 3-1/2 month window from February to mid-May. Of Obama, she said: “America, he’s just not that into you.” The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee also knocked the idea of a Hillary Clinton run.

The Republican Party does not have to be the bastion of old white males, doomed by demography to eventual extinction. “How do we renew our country?” he asked. “You don’t do it by pandering. Rick Perry of Texas, whose 2012 presidential campaign foundered in Iowa partly because opponents portrayed him as soft on illegal immigration, struck a more militant stance Saturday. 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. That came a day after Romney and Bush had met privately in Utah, with neither signaling an eagerness to bow out of the mix, according to Romney associates. But Democrats were quick to tie the Republicans here to King’s record of unvarnished comments about unauthorised immigrants, most recently his reference to a guest of the president’s at the State of the Union address as “deportable”. “These wannabe Republican leaders should be standing up to Steve King, not standing with him,” said Rep.

The lobby of the Marriott Hotel pulsed with activity late Friday night, particularly when former Alaska governor Sarah Palin arrived and soon fell into conversation with King and then briefly with former House speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, all surrounded by people snapping photos with their phones. Trump said Romney should not be allowed to run a third time and criticized Bush as being weighed down by concerns over his immigration and education policies. But Carly Fiorina, a former Silicon Valley chief executive who ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in California in 2010, said: “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled around the globe. 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.

Just as the first of the speakers was preparing to take the stage in Des Moines, Brad Woodhouse of the progressive advocacy group American Bridge chastised the Republicans for coming to Iowa and “kissing Steve King’s ring.” King brushed aside such criticism. “I’ve been called names for a long time, well before I was ever elected to the United States Congress,” he told reporters before leaving for Iowa. “I learned long ago that when they start calling you names, they’re only trying to marginalize you because they’ve lost the debate.” Cruz offered this defense of King and his role in the party. “Most of the people in the media are not attempting to represent the American people and strongly disagree with the conservative values that Steve King represents and are shared across America,” he said in an interview. 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. Iowa can be an especially difficult landscape for candidates, both because of the sizeable influence of religious conservatives and also because of such issues as ethanol subsidies, a policy that has been controversial for years but which most presidential candidates routinely have endorsed.

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.

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