If you are looking for proof of a Republican resurgence in Iowa, you don’t need to wait until Election Day this November to see it. You can see it by the quality and quantity of candidates that will appear on the ballot in the June primary, and you can also see it in the rebuilding of Republicans county organizations in some of the state’s most populous counties. The reconstruction of these organizations is by far the best indicator that 2010 will be a good year for Republicans.
Last November, the Scott County GOP held an impressive fundraising event in which former New York Governor George Pataki spoke. Later today, the Polk County Republican Party will announce that they too will host a major fundraising event. The Polk County GOP event will feature former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. The event will be held on May 26th in Des Moines.
The fundraising dinner, which is being called the “Robb Kelley Victory Club Dinner,” is named for the late Robb Kelley who was an active member of the Polk County and Republican parties in the state. Kelley was also the former Chairman and CEO of EMC Insurance.
Longtime Republican fundraiser Darrell Kearney is playing an integral role in organizing the event. Kearney recently retired from the Republican Party of Iowa. After more than a decade of raising money for RPI, Kearney is now focused on rebuilding the Polk County party organization. With county organizations like Scott and Polk being aided in the fundraising department by well known and respected individuals like Kearney and Brian Kennedy in Scott County, local efforts to help Republicans should see a boost.
Polk County GOP Chairman John Bloom told TheIowaRepublican.com, “In the last 12 months we’ve worked hard to build our county organization into a sustainable operation that engages party members and independents at the grassroots. Without a doubt, the political events during this time have fueled more activism within our organization culminating in the strongest off-year caucus attendance to date.”
Bloom also spoke highly of what Darrell Kearney has been able to help them with. “Darrell has added a significant dimension and opportunity for us to strengthen our building efforts by coordinating our fund raising activities and reaching out to leaders in Central Iowa who knew Robb Kelley and wish to emulate his impact on our community. We are delighted that Newt has agreed to speak at our event, but are even more encouraged that the work of our volunteers and growth of party activists is showing fruit,” Bloom added.
Gingrich’s visit to Iowa will certainly create speculation that he may be eyeing a presidential run in 2012. While that may be the case, Gingrich has always had a soft spot for Iowa. He has headlined numerous Republicans events across the state, campaigned for candidates like Jim Nussle in 2006, and even involved himself in the platform process in 2008. Gingrich’s American Solutions, presented seminars at the 2008 Straw Poll in Ames, and he makes a pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair every year, not for a photo-op, but to experience everything the fair has to offer.
If Gingrich does run for President, he would be an instant force in the Iowa Caucuses. Iowa is tailor made for him. He excels at retail politics, and the caucuses provide the perfect environment to shape policy and issues due to the immense amount media attention they receive. At age 66, Gingrich isn’t a spring chicken, so if he does want to make a presidential run, 2012 might be the only chance he has.
Gingrich’s presidential aspirations don’t really matter to the Polk County Republican party. What matters to them is that a high profile figure is coming to the state to headline a fundraising event for them. Sure, Iowa Republicans reward those who have been willing to lend a helping hand, but Gingrich joins a long list of ambitious Republicans who have made a point to put Iowa on their itinerary this year.
The good news for Republicans in Iowa is that for the first time in a long time there is genuine excitement within the ranks of the party. That means all of these national figures who are coming to the state to offer a helping hand between now and Election Day are not coming to boost morale like they did in 2006 and 2008, but instead they can help attract new people to the party and help raise the necessary funds to elect Republicans at the local level.
The most encouraging sign is that figures like Newt Gingrich are actually coming to support our county organizations, not just the state party or statewide candidates like in previous years. Republicans have a lot of work to do before they can recognize success. The best thing we can do is actually rebuild and strengthen our county organizations. That way, all Republicans on the ballot will benefit.
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