Matt Strawn announced yesterday that he intends to seek another term as the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. Strawn’s announcement drew quick praise from Governor-Elect Terry Branstad, Speaker-Elect Kraig Paulsen, and Secretary of State – Elect Matt Schultz.
The backing of three of the most prominent Iowa Republicans, in addition to a number of Republican successes during his time as chairman, makes Strawn the clear-cut favorite to win a second term when the Republican
State Central Committee votes early next month.
However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that someone might challenge Strawn. Stranger things have happened with the central committee. Yet with the support of the new Republican governor, it would be difficult, as well as embarrassing, if the committee chooses to go in a different direction.
Strawn’s decision to seek another term provides the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) with the type of stability and continuity that the party has lacked in recent election cycles. If Strawn is re-elected, the staff is mostly already in place.
Chad Olsen, who recently became RPI’s Executive Director, brings years of caucus experience to the position. Olsen also provides the same level of professionalism that Strawn has sought with his previous two executive directors. Another term for Strawn would also help eliminate the two to three month gap in party activity that occurs every time a new regime is elected.
In the two years that he has served as RPI’s chairman, Strawn has matured into his roll. In the early days of his chairmanship, Strawn was
often visibly nervous while talking with the media. Once the GOP primaries were over last June, Strawn became much more sure of his abilities, and he emerged one of the better chairman that RPI has had in a long time.
Those newfound skills will be invaluable to him in the 2012 cycle. With the Iowa Caucuses set to once again kick off the Republican presidential nominating process, Strawn will be talking to the national media as much as he is talking to the local Iowa media outlets.
It is also likely that Strawn will be able to use the successes that RPI experienced in 2010 to help raise more money in the 2012 cycle. Donors will look at donating to the party differently if Strawn is re-elected. Not only has RPI experienced successes under Strawn’s tenure, but he also has a number of selling points that recent administrations didn’t have when asking donors to contribute.
The success of the party’s Victory program might be one of Strawn’s best arguments to donors as to why they should donate. At his press conference yesterday, he indicated that, for the first time in recent memory, the Victory program actually made calls on behalf of local legislative candidates. Before, the Victory operation was focused entirely on the top of the ticket races. Strawn attributes the ability to call in to the legislative districts to the fact that the Party was able to open the Victory offices early, which took additional resources.
The 2012 cycle also presents some major obstacles for Strawn and RPI. First, any cycle that contains a contested presidential caucus is like having two general elections in the two-year span instead of just one. Strawn and his staff will have to organize a successful straw poll and organize the caucuses in a short period of time.
Not only do the caucuses take additional man-hours to organize, they also require the party to develop a system to count and report the votes. So not only does the party need to be well organized, it also must operate like Secretary of State’s office in terms of vote counting.
The extra responsibilities and distractions that come with the caucuses also mean the party will need to employ more staff and spend more money, which puts a priority on fundraising. Thankfully, Strawn will probably benefit by having a Republican governor to help him raise those funds.
In an interview with TheIowaRepublican.com, Strawn seemed up for the task. It is clear that he knows and understands the things the party must accomplish in the next two years. Hopefully the stability at RPI will allow Iowa Republicans to build on the successes of the 2010 elections.
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