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October 17th, 2011
 

Santorum Picks Up Some Key Tea Party Support In Iowa

Rick Santorum held an impromptu town hall meeting yesterday in Des Moines. Santorum had planned to campaign in Reno, Nevada, but cancelled his events in the Silver State when he joined the candidate boycott of Nevada until the Nevada GOP moves their caucus date back to allow time for New Hampshire to slot its primary after Iowa.

For an event that was thrown together at the last minute, Santorum drew a solid crowd and ample media coverage. While his comments on primary calendar jockeying were picked featured by traditional news outlets, it was an exchange with an Iowa activist that turned my head.

There are a lot of activists who are beginning to break for one candidate or another now that the field is set. In asking a question to Santorum yesterday, Lynn Rodgers, a Tea Party leader in Iowa, showed first hand the process that some Iowa activists are going through.

Rodgers began her question stating why she couldn’t support Rick Perry (immigration issue), Herman Cain (inexperience), Newt Gingrich (felt he was rude to her), Ron Paul (isolationist), Michele Bachmann (not ready to do the job), and when she got to Mitt Romney she just laughed. She then looked Santorum in the eye and asked him why he should deserve her vote.

Santorum first joked that he was the only one left, but then made the case that he has the experience that it takes to get things done in Washington. He didn’t rely on witty one-liners. He answered the question seriously and came away with the support of a key Iowa activist.

Like many Iowa caucus goers, Rodgers has personally met all of the candidates running for president except for Jon Huntsman. She told TheIowaRepublican.com that she has watched every Republican presidential debate, and while she liked Santorum, yesterday was the first time she has been able to meet him face to face. She wanted to meet him in person before she sealed the deal.

While this is just a tiny episode in the lead up to the caucuses, it shows that traditional caucus trends still hold true.

People expect to see the candidates in person. While TV interviews can increase a candidate’s name ID and make people aware of policy proposals, there is no substitute for grassroots, in person campaigning in Iowa. You must be present to win.

Likely caucus goers are on the move.
The next two months are critical for those candidates who want to do well in Iowa. Activists like Rodger have been following the candidates closely but are now ready to actually commit to a candidate.

Issues matter. Sometimes it seems like personality and national poll numbers rule the day, but a candidate’s position on key issues like abortion, gay marriage, and immigration are deal makers for some voters.

This is the type of endorsement that matters.
The media loves to speculate about who Governor Branstad, Senator Grassley, Congressman King, or Bob Vander Plaats may endorse, but it’s the hardcore activists who can really help the candidate they back. People like Rodgers will work their own networks, while the “kingmaker” endorsees may only be good for a press release. I’d take the backing of someone like Rodgers any day, because they end up being more valuable to a campaign in the long run.

It looks like Santorum’s decision to campaign a couple of extra days in Iowa has already paid off. You would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated tea-party activist in Iowa than Rodgers. After hearing how she arrived at her decision to support Santorum, one can see that he may be able to emerge in Iowa before the caucuses.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, 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 TheIowaRepublican.com 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, TheIowaRepublcian.com. 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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