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June 14th, 2010

How to Unite The Party After a Heated Primary

In every contested election, somebody wins and somebody loses.  After any heated primary campaign, there will be those who vow to never support the nominee because their candidate didn’t win.  Some follow through on their promise, while others will ultimately support the nominee in time.

The difference between this cycle and ones that have preceded it is that people now have more ways to broadcast their dissatisfaction with who won the election.  Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow people to communicate their thoughts and feeling to a wider audience than ever before.

While the mainstream news media will be sure to focus on any discontent that exists after the Republican primary, people being frustrated with the outcome of an election is nothing new.  In fact, it’s something that I have a lot of experience with myself.

A lot of people have tried to make the Branstad/Vander Plaats primary into a rehashing of the Huckabee/Romney caucus campaign of 2008.  While one can understand that, it reminds me more of the Bush/Forbes match-up from the 2000 caucuses, something that I experienced first hand.

My first real political experience came when I was a field staffer for Steve Forbes in 1999 and 2000.  In that campaign, then-Governor George W. Bush was the clear frontrunner, while Steve Forbes was a mere afterthought.  Still, the Forbes campaign always believed that it could compete with the Bush effort, especially here in Iowa.

When you work on a campaign or are personally invested as a volunteer or supporter, it can take on civil war type mentality – kill or be killed.  There was nothing I really liked about George W. Bush.  I didn’t think he was intelligent, I didn’t think he was a real conservative, and I thought he was incapable leadoff leading the country.

The Forbes campaign set a goal of 5000 votes for the Ames Straw Poll and wanted 30% of the vote on caucus night.  The campaign met its goals, but Bush won both the Straw Poll and the Iowa Caucuses by a sizable margin.  Needless to say, on the night of the 2000 caucuses, I felt defeated.  It wasn’t long until George W. Bush had sewed-up the Republican nomination, and the candidate that I had worked so hard for had faded away.

Just as we are seeing today, some of the people I worked with vowed not to support Bush in the fall, while others embraced the winner.  I was somewhere in the middle.  I never made a phone call, put a bumper sticker on my car, knocked on a single door, or volunteered to help the Bush campaign.  There is also something else I didn’t do – I didn’t continue to bash Bush.

Instead, I kept my mouth shut and found other campaigns to work for and help out.  That fall I helped State Representative Jamie Van Fossen with his re-election campaign. I spent my time putting up yard signs and door knocking.  My strong feelings about the presidential nominee were never a problem.  I did vote for Bush in 2000, not because he won me over, but because not voting or voting from someone else wasn’t an option for me.

In 2004, while I admired President Bush for his handling of the 9-11 attack, I still wasn’t motivated to stop what I was doing and help his re-election campaign.   If I did anything to help Bush in his 2004 re-election campaign, it was getting people to sign petitions to put Ralph Nader’s name on the ballot for the fall.  Nader was on the ballot in the fall.  He received 6000 votes, and Bush won Iowa by 10,000.

The reason why I share my experience following the 2000 caucuses is because we all need to realize that different people will handle the results of a contested primary differently.  Nobody should expect a Vander Plaats supporter to automatically show up at the Branstad office to make phone calls or volunteer.  It doesn’t happen that way.

There are more races on the ballot this November than just the gubernatorial race.  With Republicans needing seven seats in the Iowa House and eight seats in the Iowa Senate to attain majorities, there are lots of candidates who need help.  Candidates like Kent Sorenson who is running against Sen. Staci Appel, or Tom Shaw who is trying to win a rural seat that the Democrats have held for more than two decades.

There are a lot more candidates to be excited about than just those two.  All across the state, there are some outstanding candidates that need help.  I challenge people to channel any frustration they may have with the gubernatorial primary outcome and work to elect other Republican candidates who would have a huge impact on the makeup of each legislative chamber.

Find those candidates who excite you and help then get elected.  Not only will you be a productive member of the party, but you might be electing people who could be influential in subsequent elections, or maybe even someone who eventually runs for higher office in the future.

Don’t give up.  Don’t walk away.  Find another outlet where you can advance your agenda and values.

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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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