This afternoon, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross will gather a group of establishment Republican at his downtown office in Des Moines. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the findings of his recent poll on what direction the Republican Party should go if it wants to be a majority party again.
According a March 21, 2009 article in the National Journal, Gross says that his poll costs $100,000. I’m not a pollster, but I’m pretty sure that would pay for multiple polls. The poll was conducted by Hill Research Consultants, the same group that Gross used for his 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
Here is the letter that Gross has sent out to those who were invited to attend this hush-hush meeting.
Iowa First Foundation
110 West Main Street
Lake Mills, IA 50450
April 21, 2009
801 Grand Avenue – 50th Floor
Des Moines, IA 50309
As you know, we have been working hard to complete a data-driven assessment of where the Republican Party is in Iowa today and what we need to do to be the majority party for the future. Given the policy directions of the current legislature, governor, Congress, and the President, our effort is more important today than it was when we started.
Some of you have generously helped us fund a one-of-a-kind poll of the Iowa electorate by Dr. David Hill. This analysis provides information, for the first time, on the status of the Republican Party, the elements needed for a winning coalition, the types of candidates we should be recruiting, and the issue agenda which should be focusing on.
I want to invite you for an exclusive personal briefing by Dr. Hill on this study at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 30th in my office at 6th and Grand in Des Moines.
I firmly believe that this information will form the basis for retaking Republican control of the Iowa Legislature and the Governorship in 2010. Please join us for a roundtable discussion of the information that is provided. I look forward to seeing you then.
If you want more information on Doug’s poll, my liberal friend over at Bleeding Heartland recorded the poll when he/she/it was polled a month ago. The fact that a liberal blogger was included in the polling sample about what direction the Republican Party needs to go casts serious doubt on the validity of the poll results if you ask me. The Iowa Democrats are not asking me what I think they should do…
I understand that people of all political persuasions should be polled if you are trying to figure out a winning formula to win elections, but do we really want our party’s principles to be determined by some poll. Polls are just a snapshot of a particular point and time. What if the poll came back and said that respondents wanted socialized medicine, higher taxes, and abortion rights? Should we just abandon everything that the party has stood for?
Under Doug’s scenario, John McCain should have never been in support of the surge in Iraq because, at the time, his position wasn’t popular with the general electorate. However, McCain was rewarded by standing on principle when public opinion swung to his side of the issue at the most critical junction of the primary process.
Obviously, you can see I’m a little skeptical of Doug’s “one-of-a-kind poll.” If you hadn’t noticed, Doug has recently been saying things like, “If Republicans let this[gay marriage] be the only thing they talk about, they won’t be successful in 2010.” This is very similar to what he said after the Iowa Caucuses as this past fall. Gross recently told the National Journal, “We’ve been so inwardly focused and too much dominated by the social Right [that] we’ve lost our way.”
Look, I’m not an idiot. Single issue candidates don’t win elections regardless of what that issue is. What gets under my skin is Doug’s constant lecturing to social conservatives who he believes are ruining the party. Never mind the fact that it looks to me that Doug and his pals already have their minds made up and are just using this poll to validate their opinions.
I’m sure Doug is going to stand up in front of his moderate friends tomorrow and highlight the findings of his poll. I’m also confident that the main point he plans to make is that most voters are more concerned about fiscal issues than things like abortion and gay marriage. What Doug will probably forget to mention is that his poll was conducted a month ago, before people knew the court would issue a ruling that would allow gay marriage in Iowa.
I’m not saying anything many of you don’t already know. Doug and former Republican Party of Iowa Chair Rich Schwarm have been urging Iowa Republicans to moderate or compromise their principles for years now. This poll is nothing more than a tool they hope to use to convince Republicans that they are right. The real issue that deserves a poll is whether or not Iowa Republicans should be listening to these two guys.
We already know Doug’s disdain toward social conservatives, but in an interview with the National Journal this March, Schwarm said that he might advise presidential candidates to skip the Iowa Caucuses because of Iowa’s social conservatives. “I wouldn’t tell anybody not to [compete] yet, but I’d say you have to look at it, which is the first time I’ve ever given that advice,” Schwarm said. I find it hard to call people “veteran leaders of the Iowa GOP” when they are willing to tell Republican presidential candidates that they should skip the Iowa caucuses.
Maybe instead of spending $100k on a poll, Doug and his cronies should just recruit and support candidates who they feel have the best chance to win elections. If we are to believe Doug, then there should be a list of rightwing candidates who won their primary over moderate candidates just to lose in a landslide in the general election.
Our general election gubernatorial candidates since Branstad have been Lightfoot, Gross, and Nussle. Greg Ganske defeated Bill Salier in the 2002 US Senate primary. Doug’s people didn’t run a candidate against Harkin in 2008. If they had, they would have easily won the primary.
From 2002 to 2006 our Republican congressional candidates were Stan Thompson (twice), and Jeff Lamberti in the 3rd District. Mike Whalen in the 1st District, and Steve King in the 5th District. King a social conservative won his race. Doug’s people didn’t recruit or support any candidates in 2008.
Simply put, I just don’t know what they are bitching about. In fact, Gross and Schwarm seem to have a lot in common with Arlen Specter. So, are they really upset about the types of candidates we are running, or do they just want to make Iowa a bit more hospitable for moderate Republicans when the caucuses roll around?
Both Gross and Schwarm were early supporters of Mitt Romney in the caucuses. Romney finished second behind Mike Huckabee in the caucuses despite being the frontrunner for most of 2007. Romney’s disappointing finish had more to do with the fact that his campaign didn’t find new caucus goers. Instead, they only focused on those who have attended in the past.
Some think that tomorrow’s meeting is the precursor of a gubernatorial campaign. My sources tell me that may indeed be the case as Jeff Lamberti is meeting with Gross this morning. However, for those who think that this group has the money to fund a gubernatorial campaign, they are mistaken. Yes, they have access to money, but it’s the type that can fund a congressional campaign, not a gubernatorial campaign. I’m told that the big money is still on the sidelines.
What is really going on here is that Doug thinks Republicans can be successful in 2010. So unlike 2008 when he only was involved in Romney’s caucus campaign, Doug wants to call the shots and be involved again. I guess I wouldn’t question his motives if I felt his involvement was genuine, but this isn’t about building a bigger, stronger Republican Party in Iowa, it’s about Doug.
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