“We look like Camp Christian out here,” Doug Gross told Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times last week. “If Iowa becomes some extraneous right-wing outpost, you have to question whether it is going to be a good place to vet your presidential candidates,” Gross concluded.
Despising the impact that social conservatives have on the Iowa Caucuses is nothing new for Gross. It has become obvious that he just can’t help himself when the opportunity arises to bash Iowans who believe in God, traditional marriage, the right to life, and who also think its their public duty to involve themselves in Gross’ preferred place of worship, the political arena.
Zeleny, who got his start at the Des Moines Register, is a good reporter, but he failed to ask Gross a simple question. How does Gross know it looks like “Camp Christian” in his home state? Zeleny himself has attended more political events and talked with more Iowans about the 2012 caucuses than Gross has. I haven’t been following Doug around, but I’m pretty confident that the number of political events he has attended this year is ZERO.
It is true that the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, The FAMiLY Leader, and Congressman Steve King have all held high-profile events with potential 2012 presidential candidates in the last month, but having attended all of them myself, I wouldn’t describe them as “Camp Christian,” especially King’s event, which tackled a number of different topics.
You would also think that, instead of continuing to complain about the events that are held and the candidates who attend them, a high profile former gubernatorial nominee who also has the ear of the current governor like Gross, could easily organize his own event that deals exclusively with only the issues that are important to him. The reason he doesn’t do that is because he can’t pull it off, and nobody would come.
In 2008, Gross was the caucus chairman for a candidate that came to Iowa and pandered to social conservatives. Iowa Caucus goers saw right through Mitt Romney. I have worked for a presidential candidate in Iowa, Steve Forbes, who would have loved to focus exclusively on the flat tax and social security reform, yet at every event he held in the state he made sure that people knew he was pro-life. He did so not because he wanted that to be the focus of his campaign, but because it’s an important issue that matters to people. If he had ignored the life issue, Iowans would have ignored his ideas about the flat tax and other fiscal policies.
For some reason, Gross continues to support the media’s flawed idea that the only thing Iowans care about is social issues. Yes, we do care where the candidates stand on those issues, and if they get it wrong they are going to find Iowa to be a difficult place to campaign. But let’s not forget, Mike Huckabee didn’t just run around this state talking about abortions and gay marriage four years ago. It was his decision to back the Fair Tax proposal that rounded him out as a candidate and allowed him to take off in states like Iowa and South Carolina.
I think national reporters like Zeleny also need to remember that the only time Gross has experienced a political victory is when Terry Branstad’s name is on the ballot. I know a lot of people credit Gross with those victories, but Branstad’s success should be attributed to who he is and how he treats and interacts with people, not anything Gross or any other advisor provides.
Just look at how Branstad answered Zeleny’s same question. “Obviously, the economic issues are critically important, considering where this country is right now,” Mr. Branstad said. “You’ll find people who are very concerned about social issues, but they are also deeply worried about the economy.” That is a good and accurate answer.
When you compare Gross’ answer to Branstad’s, you now know why only one of them has held the title of governor two separate times and the other guy only gets news coverage when he’s beating up members of his own political party.
Expecting Iowans, or anyone for that matter, to push their beliefs aside so that some moderate candidate like Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney feels comfortable campaigning in Iowa is the surest and quickest way to end the Iowa’s caucuses. The caucus process is not about picking who we think the rest of the country will like, it’s about who WE like. Other states can look at our preference and do what they want with it.
For Iowans to be concerned with how the rest of the country feels about our presidential preference is not only unproductive, but it is also a waste of our time. When my wife asks me where I want to go to dinner, I don’t think about what anyone else wants. I just tell her my preference. The presidential nominating process is really no different. In an effort not to complicate things, Iowans and the media should just ignore Mr. Gross. He has proven himself to be irrelevant.
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