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November 7th, 2011
 

Chuck Laudner Endorses Santorum

Laudner

As far as endorsements go, Chuck Laudner’s name is not found on many lists of “must have” endorsements for the Iowa caucuses.  Those lists are usually limited to elected officials like Congressman Steve King, influential social conservative leaders life Bob Vander Plaats, or high-profile community leaders.  However, Laudner has announced that he is endorsing Rick Santorum, and this should not go unnoticed.

A former Chief of Staff for Congressman King, Laudner has been at the epicenter of conservative politics in Iowa for over a decade.  It’s not his close association to King that make’s Laudner’s endorsement important, it’s his track record of working for conservative candidates and causes.

Laudner has been involved in Iowa politics for years.  I first met him while working on Steve Forbes’ 2000 presidential campaign.  Chuck managed the campaign’s database, not an easy task in 1999.  He worked strange hours, it was never clear if he was on the payroll or not, and the last thing you ever wanted to have to do is knock on his door and ask him for something.  The good news was that if you were just a lowly field staffer, Laudner would go out of his way to help you with what ever it was that you needed.

To understand how Laudner is wired, one needs to understand how he finds his way to the campaigns he goes to work for.  There is never any sort of negotiation on salary, benefits, hours, or even a title.  In fact, those are the things that turn him off.  Instead, Laudner is like the stray cat of Iowa politics, he shows up on your doorstep and if taken in, will show you much affection.

Laudner found his way to Steve Forbes much like I did in 1996.  The idea of fundamental tax reform is one of the core issues that Laudner cares about.  While I was a freshman in college and had no clue what a caucus even was (the only thing I did that year was to put a yellow and gold Forbes bumper sticker on my Pontiac Grand Am), Laudner, showed up in Des Moines willing to help a very unorganized Forbes campaign.

Laudner’s notoriety in conservative politics in Iowa didn’t come until after the Forbes’ 2000 campaign.  In the next election cycle, he guided a long-shot conservative named Bill Salier in his U.S. Senate primary against Congressman Greg Ganske.  Long-shot probably doesn’t do the race justice.   Not only did Ganske out spend Salier eight to one in the primary, but the sitting President of the United States came to Iowa to fundraise and support Ganske in the months before the primary.  Even with those long odds, Salier received over forty percent of the vote.

Laudner didn’t spend any time licking his wounds after Salier’s loss.  There was another conservative candidate named Steve King who needed his help.   After none of the four Republican congressional candidates in the newly configured 5th Congressional District garnered 35 percent of the vote in the primary, a once in a lifetime special nominating convention was called to pick the nominee.  The winner would assuredly go on to be elected in November.  While King garnered the most votes in the primary, he was not a shoe-in to win the nomination.  The convention was messy, but Laudner and King out worked the other candidates when it came to organizing convention delegates.  Needless to say, 2002 was a good year for Laudner.

More recently, Laudner successfully managed the effort boot three Iowa Supreme Court Justices out of office.  Once again, Laudner found success in a place where many thought he was wasting his time.  The anti judicial retention campaign increased Laudner’s influence among social conservatives and expanded his list of conservative contacts in the state.

The public face of the anti-retention campaign was Bob Vander Plaats.  While Laudner had known Vander Plaats and would impart some advice to him on his campaigns when he called, their partnership in the anti-retention campaign bridged a divide that existed with Iowa conservatives.  It was the first time the King network and Vander Plaats network were united in a common purpose.

Not all of Laudner’s political successes are as noticeable as those mentioned above.  While those are the one’s that made headlines, he has also helped a number of other candidates running for offices big and small.  Never afraid of getting his hands dirty, Laudner was dispatched by Congressman King in 2004 to focus on increasing Republican turnout in Pottawattamie County.

In 2000, Bush won the county over Al Gore by 4,057 votes.  However, Bush lost the state to Gore that year by a mere 4,144 votes.  Four years later, and after Laudner camped out there, Bush won the county by 7,652 votes.  That year, Bush won Iowa, besting John Kerry by 10,059 votes.  The significant increase in Republican votes out of Pottawattamie County is one of the main reasons why Bush was able to win the state in 2004.  In 2006, Laudner was dispatched to Woodbury County.  Even though it was a horrific year for Republicans, Woodbury County was the only metro county in the state that Jim Nussle carried in his gubernatorial campaign.

Laudner’s endorsement of Santorum comes at a critical time.  Santorum has done a good job of getting to know Iowans by campaigning in every county in the state.  People like Santorum.  They openly say so, but he has yet to seal the deal with many of them.  Laudner provides the Santorum campaign with two key things.

First, he provides a signal that even though Santorum’s poll numbers don’t reflect much movement, conservatives are beginning to coalesce around his campaign.  Secondly, Laudner provides the campaign with someone who can twist a few arms, which is something the Santorum campaign lacks.

Laudner is one of the best connected conservative activists in the state.  Not only does he have strong ties to Congressman King, Bob Vander Plaats, and Steve Scheffler, but he has connections to grassroots activists in all 99 counties.  Having Laudner on board should allow the Santorum campaign to target key social conservative activists who are currently sitting on the sidelines and get them to support Santorum’s campaign.

A number of campaigns spent time talking to Laudner in recent months.  The Bachmann campaign was by far the most aggressive, but the Perry campaign also has also worked on him. The Texas Governor himself even put in a call to Laudner this summer before he announced his candidacy.  Laudner isn’t one that can be easily wooed.  These campaigns were also spending a lot of time talking to Laudner about getting Congressman King’s endorsement.  That makes perfect sense, but in doing so, they may have never thought of asking for the support of the guy who’s actually the brawn behind King’s grassroots network.  Santorum didn’t make that mistake.

When asked why Santorum is his guy, Laudner told TheIowaRepublican.com, “It’s a matter of trust. Santorum is not only a full-spectrum conservative, but he’s had actual conservative victories in his career.  I’m not looking for someone who checks the pro-life box on a survey. I want a pro-life hero who has been in the arena moving the ball.”  Laudner added, “He’s earned my vote. His conservative credentials and a 99-county tour deserve all our support. He looked me in the eye and asked for my vote.”

The next month or so is a critical time for the presidential candidates in Iowa.  The state is as wide open as I have ever seen it, which means a candidate like Santorum has a real chance if he can convert those who say they like him into actual supporters.  An endorsement like Laudner’s may very well provide the spark that the Santorum campaign needs.

The final thing to know about Laudner’s endorsement is that it’s not just a name on a piece of paper.  He will now travel all across the state in an effort to activate his network for Santorum.  That is why his endorsement is so much more valuable than even some elected officials’.  Santorum got landed a big fish today.

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com

 

SANTORUM LANDS LAUDNER’S ENDORSEMENT
Conservative Iowa Leader Chuck Laudner Will Help Organize Grassroots Efforts For Santorum in Iowa

Urbandale, IA – Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced today that his campaign has received the endorsement of leading Iowa conservative Chuck Launder. Laudner will work with the Santorum campaign to organize its grassroots efforts throughout Iowa.

Chuck Laudner said: “Senator Santorum has been a consistent, conservative leader – not just in good times, but when the times have been tough.  Senator Santorum has stood tall for faith, family, and the freedoms Iowans care deeply about.  He has also worked tirelessly to earn the votes of Iowa Republicans and has shown a true commitment to grassroots organizing and retail politics that Iowans demand.  Senator Santorum stands out from the pack as the most accomplished, best equipped, and best prepared to not just take on President Obama, but lead the nation.  I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Santorum campaign and elect Rick Santorum the next President of the United States.”

Senator Santorum said: “I am thrilled to have Chuck’s endorsement.  Chuck has been a leading voice for the Republican Party in Iowa and for conservative values. Chuck was an influential leader in the campaign to unseat Supreme Court justices that took it upon themselves to redefine marriage, and he has been a loyal and trusted counselor to one of our nation’s brightest conservative stars in Congress – Steve King – which speaks volumes for Chuck’s ability and principles.  I am greatly looking forward to working with Chuck as we work toward victory in the Iowa Caucuses.”

Chuck Laudner is a well-respected and well-known Iowa conservative leader.  Laudner has served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa, as well as Chief of Staff to Congressman Steve King (R-IA).  During the 2010 election cycle, Laudner was campaign manager for Iowa for Freedom, the successful campaign to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices who took it upon themselves to redefine marriage in Iowa.
To learn more about former Senator Rick Santorum, please visit www.RickSantorum.com.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheIowaRepublican.com. Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.




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