Matt Strawn has served as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa for just over three years. When he was elected to his first term in 2009, many questioned his ability to turn around the Iowa GOP following the 2006 and 2008 election. Two years later, and after Republicans gained control of the Governor’s Office and Iowa House, as well as making big gains in the State Senate, party insiders convinced him to stay on for another term.
However, after badly bungling the official results from the Iowa Caucuses, Strawn’s chairmanship has now come to a premature end. Strawn has announced that he’s stepping down as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa effective February 11th, the date of the next Republican State Central Committee. While is a move that some have called for, it’s also a decision that will come as a surprise to others.
Despite all of the positive things that he has accomplished as chairman, Strawn failed at the most critical task he had to oversee – protecting and maintaining Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucus status.
Strawn’s unwillingness to stand behind the certified caucus results is what created the cloud of suspicion over the caucus process. It was his exclusive interview with the Des Moines Register that caused the paper’s headline to read, “2012 GOP caucus count unresolved.” Strawn also was unwilling to declare a winner after the vote had been certified in an interview on Fox News. Strawn half-heartedly tried to backtrack on WHO Radio, admitting that the Fox News debacle was the worst interview of his life, but his unwillingness to declare Santorum the official winner then continued in the following days in various other interviews.
Seeing the confusion that Strawn’s interviews created, Iowa GOP staff and members of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee asked Strawn to release a statement that clearly stated that Santorum had won the Iowa Caucuses. Strawn refused. Strawn was forced to issue a statement after five State Central Committee members requested a meeting to discuss the matter.
If the only thing that Strawn was guilty of was a difficulty in communicating the result of the certified vote, it would be one thing, but Strawn went out of his way to undermine the validity of caucuses themselves. Instead of talking about the 1766 precincts that were certified, he talked about the eight that were not. In doing so, Strawn not only undermined the final results of the caucuses, but he also failed to strand behind the hundreds of volunteers and activists that help conduct the caucuses.
Even more disturbing was that Strawn’s talking points seemed to echo that of the Romney campaign. After the certified vote, Romney’s campaign issued a statement saying, “The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie. I would like to thank the Iowa Republican Party for their careful attention to the caucus process, and we once again recognize Rick Santorum for his strong performance in the state.”
Derek Flowers, a Romney backer who helped the Iowa GOP with the Straw Poll and who works for Romney’s Iowa campaign chairman, and was also present at the tabulation center on caucus night tweeted, “Caucus night results included all 1774 precincts. Certification did not. That’s why no winner declared.” Intentional or not, Strawn seemed more interested in advancing the Romney talking points than doing what was best for the Republican Party of Iowa and the caucuses.
Four years ago, the Romney campaign was overly insistent and intrusive with RPI officials on a number of topics. The best example is when Romney’s 2008 campaign actually wrote a press release, which they insisted RPI send out that scolded two party staffers (including yours truly) for criticizing Romney for not participating in a Fox News debate in Iowa, which led to the debate being cancelled. They succeeded in getting then-Chairman Ray Hoffmann to send the release, but the move angered the State Central Committee, which led to Hoffmann’s eventual resignation after the caucuses.
The Romney campaign’s history of pressuring the Republican Party of Iowa combined with Strawn’s sudden decision to echo the campaign’s talking points instead of standing behind the certified vote suggests that Strawn was either biased, or was motivated by something else. Either way, Strawn’s refusal to stand behind the certified vote and declare Santorum the winner has raised a number of red flags, which led to his decision to resign his position.
With Strawn now gone, the Republican Party of Iowa needs to focus on rebuilding the credibility of the caucus process. Simply defending the caucus tradition will no longer be enough to ensure that Iowa maintains its First-in-the-Nation status. While Strawn’s resignation will bring some uncertainty to the Iowa GOP in the days and weeks ahead, it was a necessary first step for Iowa Republicans to move forward.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
Des Moines, IA – Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn today announced he will be stepping down as the state’s top Iowa GOP party official, effective Friday, February 10. Strawn has served as chairman of the Iowa GOP since January 2009. The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee will be charged with setting the date to elect Strawn’s successor.
Dear Iowa Republican:
In December 2008, when I campaigned to serve as your Chairman, my top goal was to make the Iowa GOP a relevant force again in Iowa politics by ushering in an era where the Republican Party returned to winning elections without betraying our conservative principles.
Over the past three plus years, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. We witnessed sweeping Republican electoral victories at all levels. We saw an explosion in new Republican voters with an unprecedented 34 consecutive months of Iowa GOP voter registration gains. We kept the Iowa Caucuses First-in-the-Nation. We broke fundraising records, hosted the largest Republican presidential caucus in history, and for the first-time ever, the Iowa GOP co-hosted three nationally televised presidential debates that were watched by millions. Most importantly, Iowa Republicans accomplished all this and more working together as a team.
Simply put, your Iowa GOP is better off than it was four years ago thanks to outstanding team work. Your Iowa GOP is a relevant force again in Iowa politics. Your Iowa GOP is winning elections with leaders who are advancing our principled agenda. Your Iowa GOP is in a position to re-elect our members of Congress, win an Iowa Senate majority, and make Iowa’s six electoral votes the national battleground in the 2012 presidential campaign.
While the election wins, fundraising successes and media appearances are the aspects of being Chairman that gain the most attention, the most rewarding aspect of my service was the opportunity to travel our state and get to know the people of Iowa. The strength of the rebuilt Iowa GOP rests in the hands of the thousands of committed volunteer activists who give their time, treasure and talents to make Iowa a better place by working to elect public servants who share our values and principles.
The Iowa GOP designs its position of Chairman to be volunteer in nature. But over the past three years I have treated the privilege of serving as your Chairman as a full-time calling. There’s no question the job of rebuilding our party was a huge one, and one to which I committed every minute that was necessary to succeed.
It is only because the Iowa GOP has returned as a strong and relevant voice in Iowa politics that I am now able to evaluate all the competing priorities in my personal, business and political life. The party is strong and has the resources in place for victory in November. Now is the time to transition to new leadership.
Effective February 10, I will be ending my service as your Chairman. For this fifth generation Iowan and Benton County farm kid, serving as your Chairman has been an honor, a privilege and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Matthew N. Strawn
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