The Republican Party of Iowa’s upcoming “Night of the Rising Stars” event is being billed as the coming-out party for RPI under the leadership of Chairman Matt Strawn. While the new leader of the Iowa GOP has made some notable changes, the jury is still out on whether or not the moves he has implemented will lead to Republican victories next fall.
Since being elected chairman, Strawn has hit the road traveling across the state to put a face on the Republican Party. Strawn has also made use of YouTube as a way to communicate with activists and promote party events. He has also changed the fundraising events. Gone are the big, stale convention centers, the plated dinners, and the long programs.
Instead, the next fundraising event will be held at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place in downtown Des Moines, with a reception in the art galleries followed by an “Oscar Night” type program in the main theater. In addition, the event is also going to be held on a Thursday night instead of the more typical Saturday evening timeslot that was typical for the majority of past state party events.
The changes to the RPI events have both advantages and disadvantages. First, by getting rid of the plated dinner, the party is able to cut its costs and net more money. Second, by having the event on a Thursday night, it is much easier to find an available venue, and the rental may be cheaper for a week night.
The downside is that people need to feel like they are receiving value for their contribution. If the reception is chex mix and a cash bar, the program better be worth the price of admission. Having the event on a Thursday night also might eliminate people from outside of central Iowa attending (and contributing) to the event.
Next Thursday’s event will also have a different focus than past party events. This year, the party plans to spotlight it’s “rising stars”. The rising stars are freshmen legislators or any legislator under the age of thirty five. The spotlight on legislative candidates might signal that the GOP, under Strawn’s leadership, may focus its attention on those races rather than statewide efforts.
While no one would argue with showcasing the GOP’s outstanding class of newly elected legislators, the event will not showcase any gubernatorial candidates. Whoever wins the Republican nomination next June will undoubtedly be the Iowa GOP’s standard bearer, and much of the success of Iowa Republicans will be determined by how that candidate performs against Governor Chet Culver in November.
It is also interesting that none of the gubernatorial candidates are involved when the keynote speaker is the Vice-Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. While there is no doubt that Gov. Haley Barbour might be toying with a presidential run in 2012, the reason for his visit to Iowa is because it is partly his responsibility to help us elect a Republican Governor in 2010.
It is critical for the state party to have the RGA actively involved in the gubernatorial race in 2010. In the last gubernatorial campaign, the RGA contributed $1.4 million to help elect Jim Nussle. Without those types of investments in our gubernatorial candidate, it will be difficult to defeat Culver.
While the party has to remain neutral, they can play a pivotal role creating opportunities for our gubernatorial candidates to get some much needed media attention, reach out to activists, and draw attention to the horrible job Chet Culver has done as Governor.
For some reason, the party doesn’t seem interested in the gubernatorial race yet, despite the fact that a critical player in the RGA is coming to town to help the Republican Party of Iowa raise money. While Chairman Strawn has done some good things in his short time at the helm, this is one move that makes me scratch my head.
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