2016 Caucus

July 31st, 2014

Republican Presidential Hopefuls Once Again Set to Make Annual Pilgrimage to Ames

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.57.39 PMWith an open U.S. Senate seat for the first time in forty years and two open congressional seats, Iowa Republicans are focused on this fall’s general election. Yet underneath all the 2014 campaign activities, potential Republican presidential candidates are already making frequent visits to the First-in-the-Nation caucus state and laying the groundwork for a presidential run, which will begin in earnest as soon as the polls close on November 4th.

For years, the eyes of the nation have turned to the city of Ames, Iowa, every four or eight years as the Iowa Republicans would gather in the late summer before a presidential contest to participate in the Iowa Straw Poll. With the FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit now ensconced in Ames, presidential candidates and the national media that track them across the county are now making an annual pilgrimage to the home of Iowa State University.

As it was one year ago, The FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit features a who’s who of conservative political speakers and candidates. This year’s event includes five potential 2016 presidential candidates, including the past two winners of the Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. The event will also feature Iowa elected officials and candidates like Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, and the Republican U.S. Senate nominee, State Senator Joni Ernst.

Since taking over the helm of the FAMiLY Leader in November of 2010, Bob Vander Plaats has helped turn the organization into the state’s most recognizable socially conservative organization. Events like the FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit have become some of the largest conservative events in the state. If fact, this year’s event could be one of the largest political events in Iowa in 2014.

Obviously the potential presidential candidates will be the focus of the news coverage from the event, but this year’s Leadership Summit boasts an interesting roster of speakers who are not likely to run for president. Even some of the potential presidential candidates are particularly interesting as they are in the news over hot-button issues.

Below is a primer on some of the speakers scheduled to be at the event and why you may be interested in what they have to say.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott: Scott is one of only two African-Americans currently serving in the United States Senate. Scott took office in January of 2013 after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appointed him to fill the seat that was vacated by Senator Jim DeMint. I first saw Scott while in South Carolina covering the 2012 presidential primary there. Back then, he was a newly elected congressman, and the people in Charleston just raved about him.

Scott is a personable and engaging figure. He’s also got a great charisma, and you can see that in this video. Attendees might be coming to see some presidential candidates, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people walk away from the event talking about Senator Scott.

Joel C. Rosenberg 

The timing of Rosenberg’s visit to Iowa couldn’t come at a better time. Rosenberg was a political consultant before he focused on his writing career. In his former vocation, Rosenberg not only consulted for U.S. politicians like Steve Forbes, but also provided his services to former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky and then-former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Needless to say, Rosenberg is well versed in world affairs and especially the Israeli –Palestinian geopolitical struggle. To have a speaker with Rosenberg’s knowledge come to Iowa during the Gaza War is unique. Rosenberg spoke at a FAMiLY Leader event a few years ago and dazzled the audience. I expect him to do the same this year.

If you are looking for some great insight on the Gaza War, I would highly recommend checking out his Flash Traffic Blog. I also highly recommend his fiction and non-fiction books. Not only are they great reads, but even his fictional books are educational and eerily realistic. For instance, when I heard the news that Hamas had fired rockets at an Israeli nuclear facility, my mind raced to a scene out of Rosenberg’s fictional book, Damascus Countdown, which contained a very detailed description of a similar event.

Rick Perry 2.0

No potential presidential candidate has visited Iowa more often than Texas Governor Rick Perry in the last year. Perry’s numerous trips and new-found fondness of everything Iowa is interesting considering he didn’t have very nice things to say about Iowa after his 2012 5th place finish. Perry told reporters, “This [Iowa] is a quirky place and a quirky process to say the least. We’re going to go into places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting.” Perry has not only changed his tune regarding Iowa, but also his approach. Only time will tell if Perry will be a more formidable candidate in 2016.

Perry comes into the FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit being one of the most talked about politicians in the country. He recently dispatched the Texas National Guard to the U.S./Mexico border to help deal with the influx of children coming into the U.S. illegally from Central America.

Jindal 2016?

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is no stranger to Iowa. During Perry’s 2012 presidential run, Jindal came to help barnstorm the state. Since then, Jindal has been to Iowa a handful of times, an indication that he is considering a presidential campaign of his own.

Jindal would be a good addition to the Republican field. Not only is he incredibly smart, but he’s also proven ideas man. If there is one thing the Republican Party needs, it’s an influx of new ideas and solutions to the big issues facing our nation. When Jindal ran for governor in 2007, he wrote 100 white papers outlining his ideas on a number of issues facing the state of Louisiana.

Like Perry, Jindal has also made national headlines as he fights the implementation of Common Core curriculum in his state. In fact, this week the Louisiana Board of Education has joined in a lawsuit saying the Jindal has overstepped his constitutional bounds by blocking Common Core testing in schools.

Is Santorum a Candidate or Not?

I was critical of Rick Santorum’s 2013 speech at the FAMiLY Leader’s Leadership Summit because it lacked the same energy and excitement of other speakers at the event. If Santorum is even thinking about running for president in 2016, he needs to use a big stage like the Leadership Summit to remind Iowa Republicans not that he won the caucuses in 2012, but that he’s their conservative champion. With the Israel under attack my Hamas, American foreign policy in disarray, and a Republican Party desperate for leadership, Santorum can’t afford to give just a typical political speech. He needs to through down his marker and stake his claim as the person who can lead America in these difficult times.

Huckabee Wannabe President?

Iowans still love Mike Huckabee, but if he wants to the leader of the free world, he’s going to have to come to the realization that he’s not going to be able to be everyone’s favorite Republican and a legitimate candidate all at the same time. The 2016 presidential nomination fight is going to be much different than it was for Huckabee in 2008. Not only have times changed, but so have the faces. If you are going to compete for the Republican nomination against someone like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, you had better be prepared to critique his political philosophy. Huckabee is an extremely gifted of a communicator, but he’s got to show some toughness if he wants to be president.

Are Iowans Still Enthralled with Sen. Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz and his father stole the show at last year’s Leadership Summit. Cruz was all the buzz coming into the event and, more importantly, leaving the event. The big stage lends itself to Cruz’s style, but the first term Texas Senator isn’t making national headlines like was a year ago, and as you read above, other potential presidential candidates are in the media spotlight as they deal with issues that are of great interest to conservatives. Cruz is still popular, but it will be interesting to see if people are talking about him as a potential presidential candidate after his speech next week.

How United are Iowa Republicans?

The primaries are over, but there are still some wounds that need to heal from the takeover of the Republican Party of Iowa. When Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds take the stage at the Leadership Summit a week from Saturday, the response of the crowd will tell you if Republicans are united going into the fall or if there is some work that needs to be done.

Will the Conservative Audience Love Joni Ernst?

State Senator Joni Ernst dominated her competition in the June 3rd primary, so it would seem natural that she should own the conservative audience. Still, it will be interesting to see what Ernst says at the event because you know the media and the Braley campaign will be eager to see what she has to say. Ernst has shied away from any controversial issues in the general election. However, avoiding those issues at an event like this will be difficult to do.

Event Details:

WHEN: August 9, 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; check-in begins at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Stephens Auditorium, Beach Avenue and Center Drive, Ames, IA  50011.

Hosts: The FAMiLY LEADER, a pro-family Iowa organization, is hosting the event in conjunction with national partners Family Research Council Action and Citizens United.

Speakers Confirmed:  David & Jason Benham, Governor Terry Branstad, Senator Ted Cruz, Pastor Rafael Cruz, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, FRC Action Executive Director Joshua Duggar, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby Jindal, Dr. Alveda King, Congressman Steve King, FRC President Tony Perkins, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Joel Rosenberg, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Senator Tim Scott.

Tickets are only $20.14. Click here to purchase on line. You are not going to be able to see so many national figures at that price anywhere else in the county. If you can, I suggest you attend this event. You will not regret it.


Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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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