It wasn’t red meat rhetoric, but eight-ounce slabs of beef that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney served to potential Iowa supporters over the lunch hour on Thursday.
Romney often mentions a long-ago trip to a central Iowa steakhouse when he’s speaking to Iowa audiences so Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, returned to Rube’s Steakhouse in Montour Thursday for a campaign event organized by his campaign.
Romney flipped a couple of steaks on the grill, greeted his guests, then helped himself to the salad bar — opting for the French dressing which a staffer jokingly suggested Romney call "Freedom dressing." Romney then spoke to the invited crowd of about 130 who were feasting on sirloin steaks, baked potatoes and salad.
Many in the crowd described the event as a sort of fact-finding mission. "I don’t know this guy from Adam," said Deane Adams, a Republican who’s the Marshall County Treasurer, as he stood in the line for salad.
Ann Buchmeier, a Republican from nearby Grinnell, showed up because she was invited. She knew nothing about Romney, either. "I’m just checking it all out," Buchmeier said of Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential field.
Some Republicans aren’t supporting Romney’ because he’s a Mormon and the leader of the local Republican Party has heard some raise that issue. "I don’t necessarily understand why it is an issue, but I know it is to some people," Marshall County Republican chair Barb Livingston said.
Romney’s Mormon faith doesn’t bother Rod Biensen of Nevada, who first met Romney over a year ago and is backing Romney’s bid for the White House. "He seems to have everything on-the-ball," Biensen said. "I just really admire his perseverance of doing what’s right."
Christopher Landon of Pella, a student at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, drove to Montour to meet Romney in person. "As far as the Republicans go, the other candidates are watered-down candidates or are too dogmatic," Landon said. "I think that Romney has the best views."
Landon said being a Mormon makes Romney more, not less, attractive to him as a potential president, a view echoed by fellow UNI student Melissa Mozingo of Manchester who accompanied Landon on the trip. "We were talking with (Romney’s) son Tagg and Tagg’s view on that is: Yes, they are Mormons, but they know that not everybody is and they respect that about us so hopefully the public respects that about them," she said.
Romney’s first trip to Rube’s Steakhouse was over 30 years ago when Romney was a consultant working at Fisher Controls in Marshalltown, which is about 15 miles from tiny Montour.
Rube’s, by the way, is not a meant as a reference to hayseeds or hicks. The restaurant is named after its founder, Glen Rubenbauer. The establishment seats more people than live within the city limits of Montour and is known for letting customers grill their own steaks.