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March 10th, 2014

Takeaways for CPAC and the Polk County Convention

Three speeches caught my attention at CPAC this year.  The annual gathering of conservatives always features some of the best speeches of the year, but what makes some speeches stand apart from others is what they are attempting to accomplish for the person delivering the remarks.

Rick Perry:  It’s no secret that Texas Governor Rick Perry is attempting to change his perception as a national candidate following his disastrous 2012 presidential campaign.  Perry took to the CPAC stage and delivered a stem-winder that got the conservative confab buzzing.  Perry needed a big speech, and he delivered in a big way.  Now he needs to do something like that in Iowa, and his makeover following his 2012 race will be complete.

Perry’s speech was excellent, but he also impressed me during the panel discussion he participated in later that morning.  Perry talked with great detail about the progress Texas has made in reforming its criminal justice system.  Perry showed that he could extemporaneously discuss a topic that’s not necessarily a top-tier issue with great detail.  Perry’s speech and panel discussion at CPAC proved one thing – it’s too early to write off the Texas Governor.

Mike Huckabee:  In the months following the 2012 elections, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee indicted that he may make another run at the Republican nomination for President in 2016.  Huckabee’s CPAC speech on Friday confirmed that he is serious.  The 2008 caucus winner used the speech to revive the themes of his of his last presidential campaign.  Social issues are in Huckabee’s wheelhouse, and he once again touted the Fair Tax, but it was Huckabee’s comments on world affairs that show that the past four years have helped him become more versed in foreign policy.  If Huckabee runs in 2016, he’s going to be a major factor in Iowa.

Chris Christie: Still mired in controversy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie acted as if nothing could derail a presidential bid should he choose to seek the Republican nomination in 2016.  As one would expect the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association to do, Christie bragged about the efforts Republican governors have made since being elected.  He also dedicated a large portion to his speech to his pro-life beliefs.  Anytime an establishment candidate like Christie starts talking about the life issue at a place like CPAC, I can’t help but think of the Iowa caucuses.

CPAC Re-Runs

Rand Paul:  Once again, U.S. Senator Rand Paul took the CPAC stage in blue jeans and a suit jacket, and once again his speech focused entirely on liberty.  Senator Paul is a good speaker, and the college kids in the room loved everything he was serving up.  Paul’s speech was reminiscent to the speech he delivered last year at CPAC.  There is nothing wrong with that, but for someone who is considered to be a top-contender for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, one would have thought he would have used his speech to address an area where most presidential candidates are weak – foreign policy.

Despite everything that is happening in Russia, Senator Paul avoided foreign policy in his speech.  I know the liberty loving college kids don’t want the United States to involve itself in foreign affairs, but foreign policy is one of the most important things a president has to deal with when in office.  If Paul wants to be considered a serious and legitimate candidate, he’s going to have to find away to be viewed as a serious statesman on foreign affairs.

Rick Santorum:  The 2012 Iowa Caucus winner focused his remarks on the GOP’s inability to relate to blue-collar working class people.  Santorum delivered a good speech, but it was similar to other speeches he has given in the past.  His comments critiquing Mitt Romney for his campaign’s focus on business owners while never mentioning or acknowledging the workers at those companies makes a lot of sense.  Considering the current events going on in the world, it was surprising that Santorum didn’t weigh in on the Russian aggression in the Ukraine.  Again, a good speech, but not a speech that’s going to get people talking about a 2016 race.

Bobby Jindal:  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is intelligent, articulate, and personable, but he lacks the charisma one expects from a presidential candidate.  While listening to Jindal speak on Thursday afternoon, I couldn’t help but compare him to former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  Should he run for President, I think a lot of people will like him, but I’m not sure he is going to be able to get people passionately support him.  All that said, I think Bobby Jindal would be an excellent and highly competent Vice President.  Perhaps after serving in that capacity, I could see him being president some day.

Polk County Convention

All of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates spoke at the Polk County GOP convention on Saturday.  They all did well, but State Senator Joni Ernst delivered the best speech.  Like the rest of the candidates, Ernst shared her background with the audience, but what set her apart was the fact that she was the only one who really went after Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley.

A woman sitting behind me noted how much Ernst has improved as a speaker since getting into the race, and I agree.

Ernst gave the best speech of the U.S. Senate candidates, but I think Mark Jacobs had the most impressive staff.  Friendly and polite, the numerous Jacobs staffers offered delegates bags and literature while they were in the lunch line.  The ability to have multiple staffers at a convention is a luxury that Jacobs can afford.  I was also impressed with the staff and volunteers of the congressional campaigns.  The staffs of Ernst, Whitaker, and Clovis were mostly invisible.

All of the congressional candidates did a nice job speaking to the Polk County delegation, but Matt Schultz was in a category all by himself.  Schultz is well known, young, and already a statewide office holder.  His speaking ability only makes him a more formidable candidate.  Schultz impressed me on Saturday; it’s obvious he’s fired up about his congressional campaign.

The Polk County Convention was long, but it was a good convention.  It was nice seeing some of the party’s more recognizable figures back as delegates.  The caucus-to-convention process is what politics is all about.  Seeing high ranking government officials and consultants intermixed with activists was a sight for sore eyes.



About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, 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 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, 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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