The GOP’s field of presidential hopefuls grows ever more crowded
‘We fear for our children, and our grandchildren’.
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. In case you haven’t been paying attention to the 2016 Republican presidential race — and you should be, given that it’s a mere 654 days away — there’s been an interesting development this week: Everyone is running.The number of potential Republican candidates for the White House continues to grow and grow with billionaire Donald Trump being the latest to say he may throw his hat into the ring.It was billed as an early dress rehearsal for the Republican presidential nomination fight, and if the gathering of some 20 potential candidates in Iowa offered any clues, then the 2016 contest promises to be a riotous affair.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.
Iowa conservatives mirror the views of like-minded activists nationwide, and having the party’s vocal right wing blasting away could stagger either candidate throughout 2016. Mr Trump, 68, who said he may make a run for the presidency only to decide against it both in 2008 and 2012, said over the weekend he was “seriously thinking” about a campaign. For nearly nine hours of continuous speeches, leading conservatives queued up to bemoan the fallen state of America while simultaneously taking pot-shots at President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and – even more notably – each other. “You can’t have Romney – he choked,” said Donald Trump, the billionaire property developer and television host, who drew spontaneous cheers from an audience of over 1,000 activists at the “Freedom Summit” in Des Moines, Iowa, the state where the race kicks off in less than a year. 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. And it’s uncertain conservatives would actively work in a general election for Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, or Bush, the former Florida governor.
And he is bringing on Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for the conservative supergroup American Crossroads, to head up fundraising for his PAC. ●Sarah Palin said she was “interested” in the race while “serving wild boar chili to the homeless” at the Salvation Army in Las Vegas late last week. With its townhall-like precinct caucuses the first test of the nomination next winter, Iowa usually winnows the field of a party’s nomination contest and previews campaign styles and weaknesses. Tack too hard to the right during these early months in a bid to excite the party’s conservative base, and candidates risk alienating the centrist voters that can swing a national matchup with the Democrats. The last thing we need is another Bush.” A number of commentators have said Mr Trump receives more media coverage than his seriousness as a potential candidate deserves. Barack Obama was roundly mocked for suggesting in his State of the Union that the greatest threat facing America was not the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) or the Chinese economy, but climate change and the oceans. “Mr President.
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. Among the potential contenders who attended the event were former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. 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. In a Washington Post-ABC News polling conducted in December, Romney leads the field with 20 percent, followed by Bush at 10 percent, and there are 12 candidates bunched between 9 percent and 2 percent. Bush faltered in Iowa in 1988 when he ran for the nomination a second time, this time as the sitting vice president. finishing third behind Kansas neighbor Bob Dole and evangelist Pat Robertson.
Reuters said that perhaps the warmest reception was given to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who survived a recall attempt over his conservative policies in 2012 and won re-election in November. The American people don’t evaluate candidates on an issue score card as much as they do on a strength and leadership basis.” This year’s Republican presidential campaign is unique, not only in how wide open the race is, but also because of the wealth of choices for voters from the party’s different wings or factions.
John Bolton, the national security hawk and former US ambassador to the UN under George W Bush, went further, accusing Mr Obama of failing in his duty to protect Americans. “Our president has drained the moat and he’s left the gates open and undefended,” he said. 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. He was withering in his criticism of Mr Obama for not attending a march of world leaders in Paris two weeks ago to show solidarity for the French after attacks there. “We need leaders who will stand with our allies against radical Islamic terrorists,” he said. There were some voices urging a tempering some of the more blood-curdling rhetoric. “We don’t win because too many people don’t think we care about them”, said Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who ran in 2012 – but his advice received a notably cool reception.
The former governor of Alaska, and running mate of John McCain in an unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, said: “When you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested.” Instead the base thrilled to its diet of red-meat conservatism, a factor with which Mr Romney and Mr Bush will have to contend if they are to win the nomination when the first television debates begin in September. “We need to paint in bold colours, not pale pastels,” said Mr Cruz, quoting Ronald Reagan, in making the argument that Republicans need a thorough-going conservative like him, not an establishment drone like Mr Romney, to win. A race featuring Bush, Romney, Christie, Walker and Rubio would put enormous pressure on the party’s major donor class to choose sides among candidates they know and like.
Today, memories of Romney’s previous efforts dog him. “He’s a proven loser,” said John Eggen, a Des Moines air conditioning and heating contractor. And although the party establishment and its major donors have lots and lots of money — it’s by far the biggest money pot on the GOP side — it’s hard to see all five of those candidates being able to raise the $75 million or more each probably needs to run a serious campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.
The second major effect of such a large field of serious candidates is that the Republican National Committee’s hopes of quickly choosing a nominee and focusing the party’s time (and money) on the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, might be dashed. But most of the hopefuls that took to the stage at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place theatre in downtown Des Moines were more focused on shoring up their own conservative credentials than tearing into their rivals by name. Bush’s support for Common Core educational standards, which many conservatives view as big government reaching too far into local education, also gets slammed. “I don’t know what is worse, nominating someone merely because he’s been nominated twice before or nominating a liberal supporter of Common Core because he has a familiar name,” asked former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who spoke at a day-long conservative forum in Iowa Saturday featuring a long list of potential presidential candidates. 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. The more states that vote early-ish in the calendar, the more likely it is that candidates will target a state or two where they have the best chance of winning rather than trying to run the table.
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. And assuming that several different candidates win some of those early states, it will be hard for the party to squeeze out someone who can say: “Hey, I’ve won a state.
By contrast, the audience’s tepid response to a speech by 2012 Iowa caucus winner Rick Santorum that made the case for putting blue-collar workers, rather than entrepreneurs, at the heart of Republican’s economic agenda did not bode well for his chances this time around. I have delegates.” That could mean a nominating process that drags on well into the spring — and might, under certain scenarios, create at least the specter of a brokered GOP convention.
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. Meanwhile Bush is planning a 60-event fundraising tour, per The Wall Street Journal, with the goal of producing “shock and awe” numbers to scare potential opponents out of the race. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Chris Christie, another moderate favorite, argue he’s a true conservative. “If the values I’m fighting for everyday in New Jersey and all across this country are not consistent with your values, then why would I keep coming back? Reaction was spotty. “We are tired of being told who our candidates should be,” said Donna Robinson, a Marengo saleswoman. “They say they’re conservative, then they run to the middle.” The right wants new faces and new ideas. 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. That’s why retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina got warm receptions. “People who have been in and around government and politics for their entire lives may no longer be able to see the truth: our government must be fundamentally reformed,” Fiorina 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.
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 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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