Gingrich first attended a fundraiser for the Republican House Majority Fund in Cedar Rapids. He then gave a mid-afternoon speech at the American Future Fund’s (AFF) Conservative Lecture Series in Davenport. Finally, Gingrich headlined the Polk County GOP’s big dinner in Des Moines last night.
More than 200 people attended the American Future Fund’s event at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. Before Gingrich addressed the crowd, Brenna Findley, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, warmed up the crowd. Also in attendance was Ben Lange, a congressional candidate in Iowa’s 1st District.
In addition to helping raise money for Iowa Republicans, Gingrich was in Iowa to promote his new book, “To Save America.” The former speaker wasted little time before launching into his harsh critique of the Obama administration, which Gingrich refers to as a “secular, socialist, secular machine.”
Gingrich blasted the Obama administration on its mismanagement of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He said that the 1,200 National Guardsmen that President Obama is deploying to the border in Arizona is nothing more than a public relations move that insults the intelligence of Americans. He went ever further, claiming that President Obama is taking a “racist position by taking a position designed to frighten Latinos into believing they have to vote against the Republican Party.”
While Gingrich took a combative tone when talking about the current administration, he also offered a couple of new ideas. His latest proposal is to change the current unemployment program. Gingrich cited a poll that showed that most unemployed people only begin to look for work when their unemployment benefits are about to expire. Gingrich suggested that after four weeks of compensation, people would have to either work to take a college course to continue to receive benefits.
Gingrich received a warm welcome when he finally took the stage at the Polk County GOP dinner last night. Nine candidates took the stage before Gingrich spoke to the crowd of over 600 people. Like in his stops earlier in the day, Gingrich continued to needle the President and his administration over their policies and actions over the last 18 months.
Gingrich’s message went over well with Iowa Republicans yesterday. People are upset with the actions and direction that the Obama Administration has taken since taking office. While other potential presidential candidates come to Iowa and critique the President, none have come close to Gingrich’s level of combativeness.
While Gingrich has yet to ask Iowan to vote for him in the caucuses, he has been a fixture in Republican politics in this state for the past few election cycles. Gingrich barnstormed the state for Jim Nussle’s gubernatorial campaign in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, Gingrich held workshops for Iowa Republicans at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames and later that fall in Des Moines.
In Davenport, Gingrich was asked if he would participate in the Iowa caucuses if he decides to run for president in 2012. He laughed as said, “of course I would.” He then pointed out that his wife, Callista, is a graduate from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
If Gingrich does end up running for president, he will be a force to be reckoned with in Iowa. As the big idea guy in the race, a Gingrich campaign would be more about the issues and the current administration than about his personal story. It was obvious yesterday that Iowa Republicans are looking for someone to challenge President Obama, and Gingrich looked like he was up to the task.
A quick note on the Polk County GOP event.
If you are looking for signs of a Republican resurgence in Iowa, you have to look no further than the activity at the county level in two of Iowa’s largest counties. Scott County has already had a string of successful events in the last year, and Polk County’s event last night was well organized and attended.
Every Republican statewide candidates was in attendance except for Senator Grassley who is in Washington D.C. Six of the seven congressional candidates were in attendance and spoke to the crowd. All did well, but the race seems to be coming down to a contest between State Senator Brad Zaun and Jim Gibbons. Both aggressively worked the room and gave good speeches last night.
Terry Branstad used his speech to blast Governor Culver and the liberal group Iowans for Responsible Government that is attacking him. Vander Plaats used his speech to promote a series of appearances by Chuck Norris. Rod Roberts showed off his improved speaking ability and said that he was applying for the job of governor.
The reaction that Vander Plaats received from the crowd was interesting. The crowd was polite, but it was obvious that the group of Republicans assembled last night were not necessarily in his corner. The response couldn’t have been more different from the one he received at the 3rd District convention back in March. Last nights crowd was larger than the district convention crowd.
The event was a huge success for the Polk County GOP. Chairman John Bloom, Darrell Kearney, and the rest of the Polk County GOP team should be commended for putting on a great event.
Photos by Dave Davidson
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