The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition helds its 12th Annual “Family of the Family” Fall event on Saturday. Drawing more than 600 evangelicals to the state fairgrounds, the event was headlined by Texas Governor Rick Perry. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was also on hand.
Here are my thoughts on the event:
The Crowd: As I said in the first paragraph, more than 600 people were on hand. This was an enthusiastic crowd. There were lots of conservatives activists from around the state on hand. Spirits were high and most folks seemed cautiously optimistic about the GOP ticket.
Food: Outstanding. Great fried chicken, roast beef, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, choice of lemonade or coffee, dessert was soft chocolate chip cookies and brownies, which were placed on each table. Both were phenomenal. It’s hard to keep chicken warm and crispy while feeding to a mass crowd like this one, but the caterers pulled it off. Kudos.
Tables/Booths: Several campaigns and organizations were represented: Tom Latham, Iowa Liberty PAC, No Wiggins/Family Leader, Romney/Ryan, Iowa Right to Life, American Conservative Union, American Catholics for Religious Freedom, Property Rights Council and state senate candidates Terrance Williams and David Edwards shared a table.
National Anthem: Delivered by Pastor Bill Hornback from Ottumwa. Fantastic job.
Emcee: Andy Christenson did an awful job. He was not close enough to the microphone, so it was hard to hear him every time he spoke. He also talked at least once while people were applauding, making it impossible to hear what he said. Even worse, Christenson butchered several state senators’ and house representatives’ names. He also apparently didn’t know who IFFC VP Gopal Krishna was, because he butchered his name as well. IFFC should have chosen someone who was at least familiar with the legislators in attendance.
Reince Priebus: The RNC Chairman delivered essentially the same speech he gave four days early at the RPI event. It was OK.
Gregg Keller: The executive director of the American Conservative Union discussed his organization’s legislative rankings for Iowa and honored the officials in attendance that scored highly. He also made mention of a few silly bills offered by the legislature last session, including one passed by the senate that would require Iowa hunters to attach a weatherproof label to any tree stand listing the owner, license number and home address. It passed the senate, 26-24 (26 Dems, 24 Republicans).
Steve Scheffler: The IFFC president kept his remarks brief. Not much of note. During the invocation, Senator Nancy Boettger briefly mentioned Steve’s health issues. I join her in praying for a quick recovery for him.
Scheffler is miffed at TheIowaRepublican for some of the things we’ve written about him. I certainly understand that. I also hope he realizes it’s not personal. When you’re in a position of power, you draw a lot of scrutiny, and Scheffler’s been a major player in Iowa politics for a long time. He’s made some mistakes, but I believe Steve Scheffler is a good man and I wish him the best.
Ralph Reed: The national chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition got the crowd fired up. He hammered the Democratic Party’s platform that was passed at their national convention. “My favorite one of all is when they removed the name of God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from their party platform. I think it’s time to have a leader that doesn’t have to be forced by controversy to support the state of Israel and acknowledge God.” Amen.
Jerry Behn: Unlike the RPI, who forgot about the Iowa Senate Republican Leader, Behn was a featured speaker at the IFFC event. And he gave a great speech. When Behn mentioned putting Mike Gronstal and his Dem cohorts in the senate minority, the crowd gave one of its biggest applause lines of the night.
Bob Vander Plaats: It appears the hatchet has been buried in the IFFC/Family Leader feud, and that’s a good thing. These organizations are usually fighting for the same cause, as is the case this year in opposing Justice Wiggins’ retention. Vander Plaats delivered the most rousing speech of the night, earning a standing ovation during his speech.
Rick Perry: The former GOP presidential hopeful was funny, thoughtful and engaging. It was one of the better speeches I’ve heard him give. Perry usually has prepared remarks for his speeches, but he is much more engaging when he speaks off the cuff, as you can see below in my interview with him on Saturday.
My favorite line from his speech, while talking about President Obama: “His Secretary of Agriculture, your former governor, said having so many people on food stamps was a type of stimulus.” (crowd boos) “Really proud of him, aren’t ya?” (everyone laughs)
Other important notes: Ralph Reed pointed out that four years ago, 17 million evangelical Christians who did not vote. Nine million weren’t registered and the other eight million did not go to the polls. Obama won by eight million. If evangelicals turn out en masse, Mitt Romney will win by a landslide.
Also, over the next 10 days, the Faith and Freedom Coalition will make over two million voter contacts in Ohio, and half a million in Iowa, to make sure evangelicals vote.
Best moment: For me personally, the best moment was seeing my friend David Kepler in the dinner line beforehand. David and his wife Becky are longtime activists from Hamilton County. As I wrote about a few months ago in Kevin’s Korner, David was waging a hellacious battle with cancer. Becky provided many of us daily email and Facebook updates, and it was an unbelievable struggle he went through.
Doctors and nurses thought David would leave the hospital in body bag. But through the power of prayer from the Keplers’ many friends and through David’s sheer will and determination and the strength of his wife, he made it and he’s doing good. David wholeheartedly believes it was everybody’s prayers that helped him make it.
Overall: Despite a few minor hitches, this was a really good event. Afterwards, people were heaping praise on event coordinator April Linder. It was much shorter than last week’s RPI dinner, which seemed to drag on forever. The timing was good, the food was excellent, people left in a good mood and IFFC raised more than $50,000. Hard not to consider that a big success.
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