Top 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls return to Iowa to hone messages

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

In trip to Iowa, Jeb Bush says he’s conservative.

Potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates gathered Saturday in Iowa, polishing their messages on foreign policy and domestic issues such as immigration — even positioning themselves for a potential general election race. Three possible Republican presidential candidates called for legal protections for undocumented workers Saturday, contrasting themselves from the rest of the field.URBANDALE, Iowa – Former Florida governor Jeb Bush made his first appearance in Iowa as a potential presidential candidate Friday night, vowing to run hard in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest even though he is not popular among conservatives, who dominate the Republican contest here. Bush, a Republican who is expected to run for the White House in 2016, told an audience in Iowa on Saturday that the production credit should be phased out in three to five years. Speaking to about 100 donors at a fundraiser for a Republican member of Congress just outside of Des Moines, Bush tried to make the point that he was a conservative governor, but that he wasn’t going to back down from his positions on issues like comprehensive immigration reform and the Common Core educational standards. ‘‘Raising expectations and having accurate assessments of where kids are is essential for success, and I’m not going to back down on that,” Bush said while stressing that education should stay an issue run by states, not the federal government.

Jeb Bush said that immigrants living in the country illegally must have an opportunity to legalize their status, a position at odds with his potential Republican presidential rivals. “This is the only serious, thoughtful way to deal with this,” Bush said at the Iowa Agricultural Summit in Des Moines. “No one I know has a plan to round up illegal immigrants and send them back.” Bush has said a larger workforce based on legal immigrant labor is key to his goal of achieving 4 percent economic growth. But he said about the wind-power industry: “It’s now competitive.” Bush’s position on the credit could carry some risk in Iowa, which has about 4,000 jobs related to the industry, according to the Wind Energy Foundation. Bush’s declaration of affection for the state that hosts the first presidential nominating contests came at the start of a two day-swing that will include an agricultural forum with other likely Republican candidates and mingling with voters at a barbecue and pizza restaurants. Lindsey Graham also said they support stricter border security, a position in line with the Republican Party’s conservative base. “Immigrants that are here need to have a path to legalized status,” said Mr. In past years an establishment favorite like Bush would approach the first caucus state gingerly, unsure whether to expend time and resources in a process that generally has favored more conservative candidates.

The most high-profile event is a one-on-one 20 minute question-and-answer period at the first ever Iowa Agriculture Summit, where another 10 potential presidential candidates are scheduled to attend. Earlier on Friday Bush told a local radio station that, “The lesson learned that I took away from Iowa in my forays in there for my dad and my brother is that you’ve got to be all in,” Bush said in an interview with Radio Iowa. “You’ve got to really take the time to meet people and campaign there actively one-on-one and on a personal level.”

So in advance of his visit to the state this weekend, Bush told Iowa radio that if he were to run he would be “all in.” Usually, hedging candidates simply promise to return to the state. Ted Cruz said the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account to conduct official business while she was secretary of state. For the last several presidential cycles, the Iowa caucuses have produced either a winner who was a favorite of social conservatives who then had trouble surviving outside the state, or one of the top candidates has not campaigned in the state and built his fortress in New Hampshire instead.

Asked about supporting federal subsidies or tax credits for renewable fuels and wind energy, Perry said he philosophically felt that such decisions should be addressed by the states. Rick Perry detailed a plan of strategic fences, fast-response teams, and planes, while calling for an overhaul of federal immigration enforcement, including a system to track visa holders as effectively as packages. Bush said he had notched many conservative accomplishments as governor: cutting taxes, slashing 13,000 jobs from the state payroll, banning affirmative action in university admissions, and creating the nation’s first private-school-voucher program. “We took on the trial bar, the teachers union,” said Mr. Scott Walker rejected measures denounced by conservatives as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, while also labeling border security as the first step. “It’s a national security issue.

Christie offered support for maintaining the current level of biofuels that are blended into gasoline, in addition to saying he wants to enforce existing immigration laws. The first four states in the Republican calendar—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina—represent only about 6 percent of the delegates necessary to win the nomination. He said a “practical solution” on immigration was needed and that he favored allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. if they meet certain conditions such as learning English and paying taxes.

Graham was part of the bipartisan, so-called Gang of Eight senators who crafted immigration legislation that eventually offered citizenship for immigrants. A candidate who doesn’t do well in those four contests has a tough time making a plausible case that he’ll suddenly win everything once March rolls around.

But I’m not a supporter of amnesty.” He also rejected the argument that his efforts as governor to put work requirements on food stamps or require job train to be part of such programs is making it harder to get government assistance. In Iowa it doesn’t mean you have to win—the state has rarely done a good job predicting the ultimate winner—but you do need to outperform the expectations, which then helps you build support in other states. That increases the focus on him now (so that when he stumbles, people can say he’s not ready for prime time) and it inflates the idea of what doing well for him means. Bush in the Granite State, but the nearly 40 percent he was able to win turned the race upside-down for a time, making the Reagan-backed Bush look vulnerable.

One local Bush source downplayed the extent of the Bush operation (keep expectations low!), but others backing Bush promise that he will be making frequent visits and doing the time-consuming campaigning expected by voters. Frequent visits will also allow him to show that he doesn’t have a problem with conservatives—particularly since he has disparaged the conservative-dominated nominating process that picks GOP nominees. “I’m going to run to the middle in the general election and you conservatives will just have to hold your nose” is how Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of the Family Leader, characterizes the Bush message. Christie visited the state multiple times last year (more than a dozen in the last five years) and has also hired local talent that suggests he will seriously participate.

In the latest CBS News poll, of all the candidates, Christie has the greatest number of Republicans who say they will never vote for him (43 percent) and is nearly tied for the smallest percentage of people who say they don’t know enough about him (29 percent). Every conservative who wants to destroy Bush or Christie would like Iowa to launch the first broadside in the hull of their sinking ship, so it’s in those conservatives’ interest to bait both into a big commitment on a tougher playing field. Terry Branstad, the soon-to-be longest-serving governor in American history, has worked to fashion the state Republican Party in his pragmatic image, which means it is in his interest to keep the state a competitive proving ground. Finally, Iowa is an important general election state, which means every candidate has an incentive to compete to build an organization for the future. The state was a lock for Obama in 2012 given that his rise started here in 2008, so there wasn’t a strong general election rationale for a GOP candidate to play here in 2012.

But given the nature of the contest this time around, that’s a gamble that could be viewed as an admission of weakness that only leads to greater campaign woes.

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