The 2014 Republican primary is still eleven months away, but candidates are already trying to persuade socially conservative voters that they are the best suited to advance social issues. The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition kicked off its annual string of regional events in Cedar Rapids on Monday night. Republican U.S. Senate candidates Sam Clovis and David Young and Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum were all eager to make their pitches to attendees.
Since none of the featured guests are from the Cedar Rapids area, the event provided an interesting forum to see if and how the candidates appealed to some of the state’s most conservative voters, who also tend to be very reliable primary voters. It was also the first time I have been able to see two Republican Senate candidates share the stage at same venue, making it easy to compare and contrast them.
Linn County will also be an important battleground-county in next June’s primary. It is the second most populous county in the state and had the second largest turnout of Republican voters in the 2010 Republican primary. Republicans have struggled in Linn County in general elections lately, but it still provides a healthy amount of voters in a Republican primary.
Rod Blum: Anyone who underestimates Rob Blum in the 1st Congressional Republican primary is making a huge mistake. I’m not just talking about the current field that just includes Blum and Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, but also Speaker of the Iowa House Kraig Paulsen. Blum has always been good on the stump, but as is often the case, he is a much better prepared candidate in his second attempt at elected office.
If you had brought in a group of people who knew nothing about Iowa Politics and asked them who in that group was running for what, I’m pretty sure most people would have pegged Blum as the U.S. Senate candidate. Not only does he look the part, but he is well versed on issues. He hit all the marks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event on Monday, and neither Paulsen nor Rathje even showed up.
Interesting Issue: Immigration
Blum said he has empathy for those who risk everything they have to enter the country illegally to make a better life for their families. He also said that more needs to be done to the businesses who treat these illegal immigrants like “slaves.”
Sam Clovis: Like Blum, Clovis has no shortage of knowledge when it comes to the various issues that activists care about. As expected, he did well with the conservative audience. He uses a little self-deprecating humor to introduce himself to the audience. He then briefly talks about his background and accomplishments, which are quite serious and impressive. It’s a nice balance and an easy way for him to work the audience.
Whether the issue is monetary policy, immigration, or taxes, Clovis is able to provide a lot of depth of knowledge without speaking over the heads of his audience. Most federal issues were thoroughly worked out between Clovis or Blum answering the questions. Clovis excels in a more interactive setting like a town hall meeting.
Interesting Question: How do we know you won’t join “the brotherhood” once elected to the U.S. Senate?
Everyone in the room knew that “the brotherhood” was code for the gang of moderate senators who seek compromise instead of advancing a conservative agenda in the Senate. While Young said coming back to Iowa every weekend will keep him grounded, Clovis stated that there’s nothing out there that’s going to tempt or impress him. He then said, as a fighter pilot, he’s flown at the speed of sound, seen the curvature of the Earth, and is married to the love of his life. Good answer.
David Young: Don’t let David Young’s resume fool you into thinking he’s a hard charging political operative. While Young has worked in Washington for years, he seems quite comfortable talking about his faith and religion. Young talked about when he accepted Christ as his savior at church camp, and how he participated in a Chief-of-Staff Bible study while working for Grassley.
While Clovis and Blum were offering a lot of content on issues like immigration and monetary policy, Young was more quiet and reserved. It’s not to say that he didn’t contribute to the discussion, he did, but at times, he seemed timid or like he didn’t want to expound on his position on an issue.
Interesting Answer: When answering the question about being part of the “brotherhood,” Young said that what really needs to happen in Washington D.C. is a change of hearts and minds. Young said as a Senator, he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.
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