January 30, 2015

Branstad says Jeb Bush seems ‘very interested’ in March 7 forum in Iowa (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad says he talked a week ago with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush about Bush’s possible participation in a forum here in Iowa on March 7.

“He indicated to me he was very interested in coming,” Branstad told reporters this morning during his weekly news conference. “I wouldn’t say that’s a confirmation, but it was a very positive conversation.”

The forum, to focus exclusively on ag-related issues, is being hosted by Bruce Rastetter, one of Branstad’s major donors and Branstad has been calling candidates to ask them to attend. Branstad, who admits he did more talking than Bush did, said he “reminded” Bush about his father’s campaign here.

“I reminded him in 1979 and 1980 his mother and father and he and his two brothers — George W. and Neil — went to all 99 counties,” Branstad said. “…And so I said: ‘Well, you know what it takes to win in Iowa and that is you need to come here early and often and you need to go to all 99 counties.”

Branstad had backed Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Branstad as he watched the Bush family canvas the state for the 1980 election, Branstad began calling Reagan’s campaign manager to warn him about Bush’s activity.

“I think Reagan could have carried the state, but they blew it,” Branstad said.

Bush had a “personal recollection” of campaigning in Iowa 36 years ago, according to Branstad.

“I didn’t press him more on that, but I said: ‘You know how it can be done in Iowa,'” Branstad says. “…The key to winning in Iowa is hard work…We have a strong group of potential candidates and I’m excited about it and I’m glad they’re coming and I hope they’ll keep coming back again and again.”

Not only did Jeb Bush’s father win Iowa’s 1980 Caucuses, but his brother, George W., won the Caucuses 20 years later en route to winning the White House. Bush’s father and brother both won the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll, as well, but Branstad said he did not speak with Jeb Bush about that event this coming August.

AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference (discussion of 2016 campaign starts at 20 minute mark)

Iowa Freedom Summit a first draft of GOP message for 2016

Scott Walker

Scott Walker

The “Iowa Freedom Summit” drew hundreds of grassroots activists to Des Moines this past weekend for a 10-hour event featuring 31 different speakers, about a dozen of whom presented themselves as possible 2016 presidential candidates.

Congressman Steve King — the co-host of the event – kicked things off Saturday morning.

“Do you believe that the next president of the United States is going to be speaking from this stage to you today?” King asked and the crowd applauded.

The parade of potential contenders for the GOP’s next presidential nomination included governors like Scott Walker who touted what he called the “Wisconsin Way” as a prescription for the entire country.

“Common sense conservative reforms can actually work,” Walker said, “and they can work in a blue state like Wisconsin.”

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas challenged Iowa Republicans to ask each candidate to prove their conservative credentials.

“Look each candidate in the eye and say, ‘Don’t talk. Show me,'” Cruz said.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called for a cease fire among conservatives.

“We don’t need to spend the next two years beating each other up in the conservative tent,” Huckabee said.

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie suggested litmus tests could doom the party.

“If you want a candidate who agrees with you 100 percent of the time, I’ll give you one suggestion: Go home and look in the mirror,” Christie said. “…If that’s the standard we hold each other to as a party, we will never win another national election — ever.”

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum offered his assessment of why Republicans have lost the last two national elections.

“We don’t win because too many people think we don’t care about them,” Santorum said.

Businessman Donald Trump drew cheers from the crowd when he declared that Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush would be losers for the party in 2016. The event also introduced Iowans to potential candidates who aren’t well known here, like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who brought the house down with her critique of Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of state.

“I, too, have traveled hundreds of miles around the globe,” Fiorina said, “but, unlike her I’ve actually accomplished something.”

Protestors who support President Obama’s actions which shield young people who were brought here illegally as children from deportation disrupted former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s speech. The Republican crowd started applauding Perry to try to drown out the protesters. Two protesters were arrested.

Steve Wilson of West Des Moines supported Huckabee in 2008, but wasn’t thrilled with his choices in 2012. He attended Saturday’s event to “get a handle” on who’s thinking about running in 2016.

“We’re all quite dismayed and upset at the way the country has gone and where it’s headed and that kind of scares us,” Wilson says. “So it’s time to stand up and take a stand and see if we can’t get the country back to the country we grew up in and we loved.”

The Iowa Caucuses are currently scheduled for February 1st, 2016.

AUDIO and story about King’s welcoming speech here

AUDIO and story about speeches from Fiorina, Palin and Carson here

AUDIO and story about Trump’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Walker’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Perry’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Cruz’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Santorum’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Christie’s speech here

AUDIO and story about Huckabee’s speech here

Huckabee urges conservatives to quit firing at one another (AUDIO)

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, delivered a strong hint Saturday that he’ll run again in 2016. The moment came during his speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, right after he spoke about ending his Saturday night show on the FOX News Channel.

“A lot of people are wondering: ‘Well, why would he do that?'” Huckabee said. “And I’ll leave it to your imagination, but it wasn’t just so I could go deer hunting every Saturday, I can assure you that.”

The remark drew laughter from the crowd, a couple of whom were wearing bright blue shirts declaring that they were “Ready for Huckabee” in 2016. Huckabee, laboring in the role as the 31st speaker at a nearly 10-hour event, delivered a message that was sprinkled with laugh lines. However, midway through his remarks Huckabee declared that America was “coming around to conservatism” and he blasted critics who’ve questioned his own stand on a controversial issue for conservatives, the national education standards known by the name “common core”.

“I know that some of you have heard, ‘Well, Mike Huckabee supports common core.’ Folks, what common core may have originally been which was a governor-controlled and a states’ initiative to keep the fickle federal fingers of fate off of education, it has morphed into a ‘Franken-standard’ that nobody, including me, can support,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee said those who suggest he supports common core are either “misinformed” or being “dishonest” in order to help one of his potential opponents in the 2016 presidential race.

“You cannot create a successful organization of any kind if you spend your time taking a grenade, pulling the pin, tossing it under the chair of the people who are in your own tent,” Huckabee said near the beginning of his speech. “And one of the things that I’m committed to is that we don’t need to spend the next two years beating each other up in the conservative tent. We need to tell America what’s right with this country.”

AUDIO of Huckabee’s speech

Huckabee is in the Kansas City area this morning, speaking at a church there and signing copies of his new book. He’ll be at a Cedar Rapids bookstore this afternoon and he’ll be at a church in Windsor Heights this evening for another book-related event. The pastor of the church hosting the Huckabee event tonight delivered the opening prayer at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit.


Christie addresses critics at start of Iowa Freedom Summit speech (AUDIO)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit with a speech designed to counter critics who question Christie’s conservative credentials.

“I have heard and read the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit,” Christie said, “that somehow I’m too loud, that I’m too blunt and I’m too direct.”

Christie then cited the 11 times he’s visited Iowa in the past five years, at the invitation of the Iowa GOP, Governor Terry Branstad and Congressman Steve King, the host of Saturday’s event.

“Now let me ask you this: If I was too blunt, too direct, too loud and too ‘New Jersey’ for Iowa, then why do you people keep inviting me back?” Christie asked, as the crowd laughed. “And even more importantly if the values I’m fighting for every day in New Jersey and all across this country are not consistent with your values, then why would I keep coming back? I wouldn’t. I do because our values are consistent and we’re fighting together to make this a better country.”

Christie stood behind the lectern and flipped the pages of his prepared text as he spoke, but at the start of his speech, Christie was interrupted by a protester and it provided an unscripted moment.

“Don’t they know I am from New Jersey and this doesn’t bother me one bit?” Christie said, to cheers from the crowd as the protester was escorted out of the auditorium by security.

AUDIO of Christie’s speech

Christie was the next-to-last speaker of the day for the crowd who’d gathered in the historic Hoyt Sherman Place to hear from a handful of potential 2016 presidential candidates. Christie listed his campaign successes in New Jersey and told the crowd Republicans don’t have to back away from their pro-life stand in “blue states” like his own. He did not address the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal that involved his deputy chief of staff, but Congressman Steve King did bring up the controversy in his introduction of Christie. King praised the New Jersey governor for how he’s handled the media attention surrounding the bridge closure.

At Iowa Freedom Summit, Fiorina & Palin blast Hillary Clinton (AUDIO)

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, offered a biting critique of Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, drawing cheers from the crowd of conservatives gathered at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines.

“Like Hillary Clinton I, too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe, but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something,” Fiorina said, setting of whoops, cheers and applause from the crowd.

Fiorina touted her own resume in contrast to Clinton’s, telling the crowd she had “done business in over 80 countries” and had served “for several years” as chair of the Central Intelligence Agency’s external advisory board. Fiorina dismissed the Obama administration’s approach to Russia as “gimmicky” and she blasted the way President Obama and Clinton handled security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

“And unlike Hillary Clinton I know what difference it makes that our American ambassador and three other brave Americans were killed in a deliberate terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11 in Libya,” Fiorina said, to applause. “And apparently unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama I know our response must be more forceful than the arrest a single individual one year later.”

The crowd rose to its feet, whistling and cheering.

AUDIO of Fiorina’s speech

Fiorina, who has said she may run for president in 2016, unsuccessfully ran against long-time California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010. Fiorina formed a political action committee in 2014 and supported conservative female candidates around the country, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who campaigned for Ernst last fall as well, was also a speaker at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit. Palin, who spoke longer than any other featured guest at the event, urged Republicans to “go on offense” against Hillary Clinton now.

“Knowing what the media will do throughout 2016 to all of us, it’s going to take ‘more than a village’ to beat Hillary,” Palin said, and as the crowd applauded, some women in the audience started chanting: “Sarah! Sarah!”

Cruz urges Iowans to check candidates’ conservative cred (AUDIO)

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is urging Iowans who intend to vote in the Caucuses more than a year from now to “scrutinize” the records of candidates seeking support from the party’s conservatives.

“In a Republican primary every candidate’s going to come in front of you and say, ‘I’m the most conservative guy that ever lived. Gosh darn it, hoodiddly I’m conservative,'” Cruz said. “Well, you know what? Talk is cheap. The word tells us, ‘You shall know them by their fruit,’ and one of the most important roles of the men and women in this room, the men and women of Iowa will play is to look each candidate in the eye and say: ‘Don’t talk. Show me.'”

Cruz offered his own check-list for conservatives, calling for the end of ObamaCare, reigning in the EPA and adopting a simple “flat” income tax. He joked that by closing the Internal Revenue Service, all of the agency’s employees could be redeployed to provide security along the southern border.

“Think about it for a second. Imagine you had traveled thousands of miles through Central America, through the heat, you’re swimming across the Rio Grande and the first thing you see is 110,000 IRS agents,” Cruz said, as the crowd laughed. “You’d turn around and go home, too.”

Cruz was among the roster of speakers at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, but Cruz has been courting Iowa conservatives for two and a half years. At the time of his speech to Iowa delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa Cruz was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, but had not yet been elected. Since then Cruz has been a frequent visitor to Iowa, urging crowds to reassemble the coalition that helped elect Ronald Reagan president 35 years ago.

“We do not accept losing this country,” Cruz said to conclude his speech. “We will together reignite the miracle of America. We will together bring back that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America.”

AUDIO of Cruz’s speech

Cruz appeared in both 2013 and 2014 at Iowa events hosted by The Family Leader and The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, groups of Christian conservative activists. Saturday’s event was hosted by Congressman Steve King and Citizens United, a conservative organization best known for its successful legal challenge of campaign spending restrictions.

Protesters disrupt Rick Perry’s Iowa Freedom Summit speech

Protesters disrupted former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s speech at today’s Iowa Freedom Summit, prompting the Republicans in the room to rise to their feet and roar back. The hullaballo started when Perry starting talking about security on the country’s southern border.

“We need to send a message to congress: secure the border now. Override this president’s lawless executive order. Restore law and order to our border in Mexico. Stand up to this face of evil and protect our citizens,” Perry said.

At this point a handful of protesters carrying blue stgns stood up in the balcony and started yelling in opposition. As the crowd rose in support of Perry, the former Texas governor continued speaking.

“That’s the face of America,” Perry said. “That’s what they’re going to see for the next two years. This is why we live in America today, to be able to stand up and tell our government to do what we want to do. That’s what we elected them for.”

Perry dispatched Texas National Guard troops to his state’s southern border late this summer. His 14-year run as governor of Texas ended this past week. Two of today’s protesters were arrested.