April 16, 2014

Paul Ryan, in Iowa, urges GOP unity (AUDIO)

Paul Ryan poses for a picture during a visit to Iowa.

Paul Ryan poses for a picture during a visit to Iowa.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is urging his fellow Republicans to be the “great alternative party” and to unify for the 2014 election.

“This is the Lenten season. I’m also a Catholic and so you have to give up something during Lent,” Ryan said this evening in Iowa. “Here’s what I suggest we try to give up: Let’s try to give up the in-fighting, let’s give up the tunnel vision, let’s give up the acrimony.”

Ryan spoke to a crowd of over 350 at fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa GOP.

Ryan, the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, began his speech with a short lament about the outcome of the 2012 presidential election and Ryan mentioned the budget plan he championed that passed the Republican-led House this week. But Ryan dedicated much of his remarks to a vision for the party’s future.

“We don’t believe in inputs and throwing more money at the problem. We believe in outcomes,” Ryan said. “We have to be not just the ‘good opposition party.’ We have to be a ‘great alternative party’ and we have to show that these ideas and these principles which made us so great in the first place are as relevant and important today as they ever were before.”

AUDIO of Ryan’s speech, 20:00

Paul Ryan greeting supporters in Cedar Rapids.

Paul Ryan greeting supporters in Cedar Rapids.

Ryan told reporters after the speech he’s talking about 2014 right now.

“I think we can win the big election in ’16 — we, the Republican Party — and save this country from what I think is a very dangerous path that we are on,” Ryan said.

AUDIO of Ryan speaking with reporters, 6:00

A group of protesters gathered across the street from the hotel ballroom where Ryan spoke, criticizing what they called Ryan’s “reckless, dangerous…anti-middle class budget plan.”

Huckabee, in Iowa, says he’s concerned about country’s direction (AUDIO)

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — the winner of Iowa’s 2008 Caucuses — spoke to an Iowa crowd tonight, calling on Christians to embrace economic populism and to reject the erosion of personal liberties.

“One of the reasons why I’m here is because I’m concerned there are some directions we have taken as a nation that make no sense to me based on understanding just a little bit of who we are as a country,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee did not mention the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans call ObamaCare, and he suggested the GOP’s presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012 were unsuccessful because they didn’t present an understandable message to voters.

Huckabee specifically criticized the 2008 government bail out for Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs.

“Not only did we bail them out, they got bonuses for  having ruined their companies and ruining the country’s economy and I’m thinking there’s something horribly wrong when we do not prophetically call out that kind of corruption, that kind of cronyism,” Huckabee said. “…When you punish the productivity of good people and you reward the reckless irresponsibility of others,  you cannot expect the blessing of God in your economy and in your life.”

Huckabee, who has also served as a Baptist minister, sprinkled his 45 minute long speech to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering with humor, but of a government drifting toward “tyranny” with decisions like requiring enhanced security checks of every passenger inside the nation’s airports.

“When did we ever come to the place where we’re willing to stand in a little box and get electronically strip-searched, putting our hands up in the surrender position, as if we’d just been arrested without due cause, probable cause and without a warrant for our arrest?” Huckabee said. “Look, I’m trying to be some wacko way out there. I’m talking about the most basic, fundamental rights we have as an American citizen.”

AUDIO of Huckabee’s speech, 45:30

Huckabee met privately with Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Republican legislators earlier in the day. Huckabee’s last trip to Iowa was in late-2013 and, during an interview with Radio Iowa, Huckabee made it clear then he was thinking about another run for the White House in 2016. This Friday, 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is due to speak in Cedar Rapids at an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser. Other potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates like Rick Santorum and Rick Perry have visited Iowa in the past month as well.

Danny Carroll elected as Iowa GOP’s new chairman (AUDIO)

Danny Carroll

Danny Carroll

The Republican Party of Iowa has a new chairman who vows to raise more money, register more Republican voters and maintain the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa’s Caucuses.

A.J. Spiker resigned as party chairman to take a job with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s political organization and the party’s state central committee elected former legislator Danny Carroll as their new leader this weekend.

“I’m kind of excited, folks,” Carroll said in a speech to the committee immediately after his election. “I know that people have differences. There’s conflict. That just goes with it. Happens in my family, so I would expect it to happen in a big family, but at the end of the day there’s nothing like hard work (and) some good, compelling goals ahead of us to put our differences behind and see that we have a good Republican year this coming November.”

Carroll, who lives in Grinnell, served in the Iowa House for a dozen years, and now that he’s the GOP’s chairman he’s resigning from his current job as a lobbyist for “The Family Leader” — a conservative Christian group. A new co-chairman of the Iowa G-O-P was elected Saturday, too, and he is a leader of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition — an off-shoot of the Christian Coalition. A few members of the party’s governing board had hoped to delay these leadership decisions until a new state central committee is assembled after the state convention in June, but Tamara Scott, Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman, pushed for Carroll to take the chairmanship now.

“I would hate to try and do the work we have ahead without him,” Scott said.

AUDIO of Carroll’s nomination and election, 10:00

Carroll intends to ask the new group of state central committee members who take over this summer to keep him on as party chairman, but he told reporters he understands there has been an effort by Governor Branstad’s campaign to “take back” the party.

“I just intend to do the best job I can from day to day and let the chips fall where they may,” Carroll said Saturday.

Carroll supported Branstad opponent Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 election. Carroll, who now describes his relationship with Brantsad as “cordial”, told reporters he’ll “be looking for every opportunity” to build party unity.

“Obviously we’ll be careful about any disagreements with Republicans,” Carroll said. “At this point we’re interested in uniting the party around a cohesive effort towards November. It sure would be nice to wake up after the November election and see that the U.S. Senate and the Iowa Senate are controlled by Republicans.”

Carroll said his immediate goals are to organize well-run district and state conventions. Carroll will retain the part-timer, the intern and the two full-time staffers hired by Spiker, the now-former state party chairman who comes from the party’s libertarian wing.

AUDIO of Carroll’s Saturday news conference, 7:00

Rick Santorum “very open” to second White House run in 2016

2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was in Iowa yesterday to help Secretary of State Matt Schultz raise money for his third district congressional race — and Santorum made it clear he may be back to campaign for himself in the future.

“I’m here. I’m going to be around the country. I’m very concerned about our country. I’m very concerned about particularly a lot of people in the middle of America who are full of fear and don’t think things are getting better and don’t see either party as the answer to the problem,” Santorum said during taping of IPTV’s “Iowa Press” program. “…I’m very open to taking on another run and right now I’m just doing everything that I would be doing if I was going to run.”

Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, appeared at a private fundraiser in Waukee last night for Schultz, who endorsed Santorum in late 2011. Santorum hinted he may endorse a candidate in the crowded primary for the Iowa GOP’s 2014 U.S. Senate nomination.

“I have a very, very good friend who’s in the race — Sam Clovis who’s a terrific guy, is a good friend and someone who was a great support of mine, you know, Sam’s a #1, top-flight kind of guy,” Santorum says. “Right now I have sort of not gotten engaged in that race. I may.”

But Santorum said he is being selective about his endorsements because, he said, ”the more you do, the less effective you are.”

Santorum is releasing a book in April called “Blue Collar Conservatives.” Santorum argues the Republican Party needs to address issues working Americans care about rather than focusing so much on the so-called “job creators.” Santorum made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which will air Friday night at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.  He also addressed the controversy over the  results of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

In other endorsement news from Wednesday, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin endorsed another Republican in the U.S. Senate race.  Palin called Joni Ernst a “Midwest Mama Grizzly” who can go “roaring to Washington on her Harley” and get the country back on track.

Santorum says controversy over results of 2012 Iowa Caucuses a “tragedy”

2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says “no election’s perfect” and he holds no grudge against Iowa’s Caucuses. Mitt Romney was declared the winner by eight votes over Santorum on Caucus night, but certified results released in mid-January showed Santorum the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, by 34 votes.

“I don’t think there’s anything for Iowa to apologize for,” Santorum says. “…No election’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. You transpose a digit and you’re calling in all these results. No result is perfect, so I felt Iowa did a great job. Would I have preferred to have the error on the other side? Yes, but I can’t look at the caucus process and see a problem here.”

Santorum says people tell him he got “ripped off” because he didn’t get the campaign boost of being declared the victor on Caucus night, but he disagrees.

“No I didn’t (get ripped off),” Santorum says. “…The vote differential turned out to be 42. Well, in most cases that would be: ‘Who cares?’…In this case it happened to be the difference between: ‘You won and you lost.’ The Iowa Caucus performed as well as it ever has. That’s the tragedy about the controversy around the Caucuses at the time…This was the highest level of certification in the history of the Iowa Caucuses and better than, probably, any other Caucus that was run in the country.”

Santorum made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs Friday night at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television. Santorum is in Iowa today to meet with supporters and campaign with Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Schultz endorsed Santorum before the 2012 Iowa Caucuses and Santorum has endorsed Schultz’s bid for Iowa’s third district congressional seat.

Ted Cruz, “passionate fan” of school choice, speaks to Iowa home schoolers (AUDIO)

Ted Cruz talks with an Iowa parent.

Ted Cruz talks with an Iowa parent

Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Iowa home schoolers today: ”school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

“I think we ought to be pursuing every possible policy to expand the option for parents and for kids,” Cruz told reporters immediately after his speech.

Cruz told the crowd of hundreds of children and their home-schooling parents that they have a “fundamental right” to educate their children and they must “guard against efforts to undermine” their new-found freedoms.

A 2013 Iowa law erased previous requirements that parents who intend to teach their children at home notify their local public school district and file lesson plans with the school.  Cruz said he is a “passionate fan” of school choice as well — allowing parents to send their children to the school of their choice, not just to the school in the district in which they live.

“For too long, we’ve been hearing that solutions will come in time, in decades,  and yet one generation after another of kids are left without good options,” Cruz said. “We need to have the urgency that, frankly, we would have if it were our kids trapped in schools.”

Ted Cruz speaks to home schoolers.

Ted Cruz speaks to home schoolers.

Cruz is “emphatically opposed” to the so-called “common core.” Supporters say is an effort to ensure students are competent in essential subjects like math and science. Cruz sides with those who say it will wind up being a federal take-over of education.

“I don’t think the federal government has any role dictating the content of curricula. I think education is a state issue and a local issue and ideally at the local level because that way parents can have direct input and control of what’s being taught to their kids,” Cruz told reporters. “If you or I disagree with what some bureaucrat in the federal Department of Education says, you can’t change that. You don’t have an influence on that.”

Cruz just recently finished second in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll gauging interest in the field Republicans likely to run for president in 2016. He is due to speak in Mason City this evening at a Cerro Gordo County GOP fundraiser.  This is the first-term senator’s fourth visit to Iowa in less than a year.

AUDIO of Cruz’ speech, 26:00

Democrats organized a conference call with reporters a few hours before Cruz made his public appearance in Des Moines.  Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz called Cruz the “new face” of the GOP.

“The Tea Party has clearly had a strangle-hold over the Republican agenda and Ted Cruz has been driving that agenda,” Wasserman-Schultz said.

Whitehouse on a “mission” to get carbon tax through U.S. Senate in 2015

Senator Whitehouse

Senator Whitehouse

A Rhode Island Senator is in Iowa today, urging Iowans to push the next crop of presidential candidates to address climate change. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has a series of public events today in Iowa, including a stop this morning at the statehouse.

“I want to lay the groundwork so that when Iowa is the political epicenter of the universe in 2015 we’re putting the candidates on the spot and Iowa is contributing towards the success of solving their problem then,” Whitehouse said.

While the senator’s last name is “Whitehouse,” he told reporters he is “definitely not”  running for the White House himself.

“I think we have a terrific candidate in Hillary Clinton,” Whitehouse said. “I supported her last time and I’m going to support her again and I’m here on a completely different mission.”

According to Whitehouse, there is “an extremely good chance” the U.S. Senate will be able to pass legislation to address carbon-based pollution.

“The clearest thing we need to do is put a price on carbon so that the price of carbon matches the cost of carbon to the world,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse told reporters 10 Republican senators appeared willing a few years ago to support that kind of approach, but Whitehouse said those senators have been cowed by the coal, oil and gas industries.

“The biggest challenge in pushing legislation in Washington is the colossal barricade of lies and special interest money that has been built around the capitol,” Whitehouse said. “…This is not an up-and-up debate with legitimate arguments on both sides. This is a propaganda effort paid for by the polluting industry on one side and a bunch of scientists and people who actually know what they’re talking about on the other side.”

Whitehouse spoke to a crowd over over 200 at the statehouse this morning. He’ll host a “business forum” in downtown Des Moines later this afternoon. Businesses understand the “reality” of climate change, according to Whitehouse and he aims to get businesses to convince the public that climate change is really happening.

“The denier machinery is very unified. In fact, although it has many faces, it’s basically all the same beast and it’s paid for by virtually all the same money,” Whitehouse said. “And on the other side you have all of these other corporations and organizations that have other interests. This isn’t their prime interest to convince the American public of this, so trying to get a coordinated message out of them is the task we have.”

Whitehouse is due to speak in Des Moines this evening at the Izaak Walton League.

Photo courtesy of the Senate Democratic Caucus Staff