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June 28th, 2010

A Stronger Republican Party Emerges From Contentious Convention

Don’t believe what you are reading in the newspaper or what you are seeing on the local news. The Republican Party in Iowa isn’t divided. It’s not coming off of a contentious convention. It matured and now is poised to make huge gains in November.

While the media was focused solely on the nominations for lieutenant governor during Saturday’s convention, they missed all of the signs of a political party that is awakening from a long slumber where it has won nothing because it spent most of its time arguing amongst itself.

What the media missed last weekend was that Republicans coalesced around its leaders. The two individuals responsible for what I believe will be a Republican revival in this state are Terry Branstad, the Republican nominee for governor, and Matt Strawn, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

At a meeting of the Republican State Central Committee (SCC) on Friday, Strawn sent a strong message to the SCC members when he put his foot down and demanded that all of the anonymous attempts to discredit party cease immediately. While Strawn has been the chair of the party since January of 2009, Strawn emerged as the leader after Friday’s meeting.

Strawn should also be commended for putting together an outstanding convention. While the credentialing process took too long and the vote for lieutenant governor took more than an hour, overall, the convention was professionally run, and went off without a hitch considering the circumstances.

Branstad deserves credit because he was never afraid to let the delegates nominate people other than who he selected to be his running mate. At his press conference announcing Reynolds as his running mate last Thursday, Branstad indicated that he wouldn’t prevent the delegates from nominating other candidates. He stayed true to his word.

Branstad had a lot on the line at Saturday’s convention. At the Democratic convention that was held a week ago, the Culver campaign pushed for a rule change so that nobody could challenge Patty Judge for lieutenant governor. Branstad could have done something similar, but he chose not to do that.

If Vander Plaats would have been nominated instead of Reynolds, not only would it have been a huge embarrassment, but it also would have thrown his campaign into complete chaos. The Branstad campaign would have had to figure out how to incorporate Vander Plaats in their efforts.

The Branstad campaign could have done things differently. As soon as Reynolds was nominated, the Branstad campaign could have then had someone prepared to make a motion to close nominations, meaning, Rep. Dwayne Alons would have been out of order had he tried to nominate Vander Plaats. It was Branstad himself who didn’t want to gag the convention delegates.

Branstad himself could be seen working the convention floor and was engaged in doing whatever he could to ensure that his nominee was going to be successful. The Branstad campaign was obviously worried, and they had a whip program in place, which helped them be successful on Saturday. I was told that the votes Reynolds received were close to the Branstad campaign’s original whip count.

The Branstad campaign took a relatively unknown State Senator in Reynolds and was able to win a convention vote over Vander Plaats. While many are trying to make hay out of the fact that Branstad’s nominee only received 56% of the vote, Vander Plaats had more supporters than Branstad at the District Conventions, which is why he and his supporters attempted to force their way on to the ticket.

Don’t let anyone fool you, Bob Vander Plaats thought he was going to win on Saturday. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gone down that road. Having been rejected by the Republican primary voters and now the more conservative convention delegates, Vander Plaats has very few options.

It is my belief that Vander Plaats will eventually run as an independent candidate. In doing so, he will claim that he didn’t leave the party, the party left him. That type of logic is fundamentally flawed, but for a man who has spent more than a decade trying to get elected, why would he stop now?

I come away for the convention upbeat and optimistic about the future of the Republican Party. Finally, it seems as if the Party has some real leadership and is focused on the right thing – winning elections.

While the convention might not have gone off exactly as planned, the Republican Party of Iowa is better off for having gone through what it had to endure on Saturday. Out of adversity, leaders emerge. The most notable such leaders were Terry Branstad and Matt Strawn, but Rod Roberts deserves a mention as well. More on him in a later article.

Photo by Iowa GOP

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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