US Senate

April 28th, 2014

Clovis, Whitaker Shine at Family Leader Forum; Did the Register Boycott?

ANKENY – For the second night in a row, U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis outshined the competition. Clovis was clearly the crowd favorite during The Family Leader’s forum held at Faith Baptist Bible College on Friday. Dr. Clovis repeatedly earned applause for his responses.

The other candidate that excelled at the forum was Matt Whitaker. The former U.S. attorney was forceful in his answers and seemed determined to establish himself as the outsider in the race. Whitaker twice slammed Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. He also name-dropped three popular conservative senators who are also viewed as outsiders: Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul.

Whitaker’s strongest answer came early on, when moderator Erick Erickson asked the candidates to describe what it means to be a Republican. Whitaker noted that the party has hurt itself at times by moving away from what Republicanism is supposed to stand for: constitutional, limited government, as well as self reliance and self responsibility.

That response earned strong applause from the estimated 200 attendees. What he said next elicited an even bigger response, in regards to the federal government.

“In the last several decades, we’ve tried liberalism. We’ve tried big government Republicanism. We really haven’t tried conservatism,” Whitaker said.

Sam Clovis, who seemed to be the clear winner during Iowa Public Television’s debate on Thursday, kept the crowd enraptured throughout the forum. From the opening moment, when the candidates were asked about the one moment that most impacted their lives and he described a near-death experience while flying planes in the Air Force, until the close, when he described what separates himself from the rest of the field, Sam Clovis was definitely in his element.

Clovis stated he would not attempt to profit financially from his public service as so many others, like Tom Harkin, have. He pledged to tackle entitlement reform and how he would refuse to vote for any bill that increases the budget. Clovis also said he would adamantly reject lobbyists.

“Anyone that will make a dollar of a vote that I will make shall not come to my office. I will not bend to special interests, and particularly those that want to profit from votes that people make in the Congress of the United States and I will not do that,” he said.

Over and over, Sam Clovis told attendees what they wanted to hear, but it came across as authentic because he has been saying the same thing for months on the campaign trail and long before he ever got into the race.

Fellow candidates Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs were basically afterthoughts at this event. While neither had a particularly bad night, there were very few moments that made them stand out. Overall, Clovis and Whitaker were the clear winners.

Candidate Scott Schaben did not participate.

You can view the entire forum below, which included about 45 minutes of warmup speeches from Senator Grassley, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats:

Video streaming by Ustream

Did the Register boycott the forum?

The Iowa Democratic Party called on candidates to boycott The Family Leader forum due to controversial statements moderator Erick Erickson made two years ago. Did the Des Moines Register’s news staff take marching orders from the Democrats and participate in the boycott?

The Register sent no staffers to cover one of the most important forums of the entire campaign. It was also available online The forum was co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley, who spoke at length to the crowd, and the Branstad-Reynolds campaign. It was a major political event. However, Iowa’s self-proclaimed “number one source for news” offered no coverage of this U.S. Senate forum.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette and a couple of the local TV stations did cover the event.

UPDATE: The Family Leader says they sold around 350 tickets to the forum.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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