Around 350 Christian conservatives turned out in Waukee on Tuesday for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual spring kickoff. The event was headlined by 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor is a potential candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination.
Here are my thoughts, insights and a few videos from the evening’s proceedings:
The setting: Point of Grace Church in Waukee. This has been the site of many similar events. It’s a great location and has all the necessary amenities to pull off a big event like this.
The emcee: Secretary of State Paul Pate handled the emcee duties. He did OK. Pate brought plenty of enthusiasm, but he stumbled through some of the names on a long list of elected officials and dignitaries. Harrison County GOP Chair Kip Murphy was glad to get a promotion to “Representative Murphy”. Pate did get better as the night went on.
Food: A variety of sandwiches. I went with the turkey and provolone with potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie. It was quite tasty.
The crowd: It was smaller than expected. IFFC thought there would be 400-500 in attendance. I counted around 350.
Attendees: All the Republican U.S. Senate and Third Congressional District candidates and campaigns were on hand. Each had a table to promote their candidate or cause. Also on hand was Iowa Right to Life, the Draft Ben Carson for President PAC and a few other issue organizations.
There were numerous legislative officials on hand, as well as GOP county chairs and co-chairs from across the Third District. The rest of the crowd was comprised of prominent activists and Christian conservatives.
The buzz: During the reception, there was lots of talk about the U.S. Senate and congressional races, with people wondering if either or both of the races will have to be decided at convention. Additionally, Governor Branstad’s firing of DAS Director Mike Carroll, which happened moments before the doors opened, was a hot topic.
The president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition spoke about the importance of uniting behind candidates after the primary. He mentioned how whoever wins on the Republican side would be acceptable over the alternative of far left liberals Staci Appel and Bruce Braley.
“So I am here to tell you that we are going to go out of here united and Iowa is going to probably be the state that is going to put us in control of the U.S. Senate so we’ve got to be united and we are going to go on to victory and we are going to put the left back in the back seat, back where they belong because they do not represent the values of our great country,” Scheffler said.
Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman kept his speech brief, but the message was a good one.
The national Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman also kept his speech brief. Reed provided a preview of the political organizational plans the IFFC has for 2014, followed by the usual fundraising pitch. It was decent.
The keynote speaker addressed the crowd before the numerous congressional candidates took the podium. Usually a would complain that a speech lasting more than 45 minutes was way too long, but Huckabee’s speech did not drag at all, at least to me. Maybe it’s because he spoke before all the candidates, so it was still early in the evening when Huckabee wrapped up.
It was exactly the kind of speech you would expect from the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner. There was plenty of humor mixed with a strong social conservative message. If anyone thought Mike Huckabee was going to back away from social issues like gay marriage because the public opinion tide seems to be turning, they were sorely mistaken.
“Look, I’m not against anybody. I’m really not. I’m not a hater. I’m not homophobic. I honestly don’t care personally what people do in their individual lives, but I’ll tell you, when people say, ‘Well why don’t you just get on the right side of history.’ I say this for me is not about the right side or wrong side of history, this is the right side of the Bible and unless God rewrites it, edits it, sends it down with his signature on it, it’s not my book to change,” Huckabee said.
There were numerous applause lines for Huckabee throughout the speech. He also touched on the Iowa Supreme Court justices’ ouster in 2010, abortion, TARP, the NSA, and he called the IRS a “criminal enterprise”.
If you’re looking for signs of whether or not Huckabee is serious about another presidential run, I believe the length of his speech might provide a clue.
Overall, it was excellent.
Each U.S. Senate and U.S. House candidate on hand, as well as State Auditor Mary Mosiman, was provided three minutes to speak to the crowd. Unfortunately, many people left after Mike Huckabee’s speech.
Second Congressional District candidates
This was the first time I have seen Mark Lofgren and Mariannette Miller-Meeks on the same stage since their primary campaign began. Lofgren told a personal story, relating it to the role faith has played in his life. He then mentioned faith provides you with endurance and strength, which you need to fight for life, family values, Israel and to balance the budget.
I think Lofgren took the right approach in tailoring his message toward a values voter crowd. Overall, it was well delivered.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks brought a lot of fire to the podium. Her speech was perhaps the most impassioned of the evening. She started a little slow, but picked up steam and got better as she went on.
“You ask repeatedly, who is standing up for the little guy? Well it is the Republican Party that is the party of small business. It is the Republican Party that knows that valuing life does not devalue women,” Miller-Meeks said. “And it is the Republican Party that is standing up for the little guy. I am the little guy and I am standing up.”
Overall, she made very good use of her three minutes.
Somebody named Matt Waldren is also apparently running for this seat. He spoke.
Third Congressional District candidates
They all gave their basic stump speech, with the exception of Monte Shaw. He talked about something Mike Huckabee said during the 2008 campaign about being pro-life does not end when the baby is born. Shaw focused a significant part of his three minutes on adoption.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve heard all these speeches many times before, but I appreciated Shaw’s speech the most out of the Third District candidates. Again, I think you should give this crowd something different than the standard stump speech. Monte Shaw did that, made it personal and made a strong point.
U.S. Senate candidates
Again, most of the candidates delivered their basic three-minute stump speech. Sam Clovis was an exception. He spoke about a family heirloom, a ring, that he wore when he was flying jets in the Air Force and the importance of that ring that he now wears on the U.S. Senate trail. Because his speech was different than the others, I appreciated Clovis’ the best.
Overall: I thought the IFFC put on a very good event. It did drag a bit toward the end with all the candidate speeches, and because Huckabee went so long, but the setting was very good to mingle with many people before hand, hear some great messages and perhaps make a final decision about which candidate to support in the primary.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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