Two of the three Iowans who serve on the Republican National Committee say a petition outlining ten key G.O.P. policy positions is designed to help show “grassroots” Republicans that the party’s platform means something.
Steve Scheffler, Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman, is part of a “conservative steering committee” that has pushed for reform of the national party.
“We wanted the RNC to make a difference as opposed to being a mere social club,” Scheffler says. “We felt that the party needed to do some things, make some statements that would give our grassroots some faith that we were going to try to be accountable to them.”
Scheffler says a group of New York Republican leaders nominated a candidate for congress this fall who was, in his opinion, “as far left as you could get” on social and fiscal issues, and that congressional race was the impetus behind this new “top ten” list. Scheffler says the list would put some teeth into the process of giving campaign cash to G.O.P. candidates around the country.
“In my view these 10 points are not a litmus test and so we’re not saying you have to agree with all of them,” Scheffler says. “…But, you know, if you want RNC funding, then there ought to be certain standards and there should be a benchmark by which you ought to qualify for that money.”
Kim Lehman, Iowa’s Republican National Committeewoman, is also part of the “conservative steering committee.”
“(RNC) Chairman Steele is faced with supporting candidates that call themselves Republicans, but don’t have the values of the Republicans so it’s caused some branding issues for the Republican Party and it’s also problematic for other Republicans as we try to rebuild this party to act upon its mission statement, which is in the platform.”
Lehman says “most Americans hold conservative values” and this is an effort to ensure the G.O.P. stands for them.
“We’re a conservative party. We represent conservative issues and we stand and vote conservative, and then there’s these rogue people that call themselves Republicans,” Lehman says. “And I think the objective of the resolution is to clarify, for the sake of the chairman, that we don’t feel obligated to put our financial support behind you.”
The 10-item list is a “work in progress” according to Scheffler. As currently written, it’s a resolution that likely will be considered by the Republican National Committee. Republican candidates would have to agree with or support eight of the 10 points on the list in order to receive money from the R.N.C. The list touches on everything from gun rights to the immigration issue, as well as health care reform.
“I would imagine that 95 percent of Iowa Republicans would agree with at least eight of those, probably nine or 10,” Scheffler says.
Scheffler is head of the Iowa Christian Alliance and has been involved in Iowa Republican Party politics for years. In any given week, he attends at least three or four events around the state.
“And you hear people just saying, ‘We’re disgusted with the national party. When are you guys going to get your act together?'” Scheffler says.
Scheffler says that’s what this “10-point” effort is all about. Critics call the list a “purity test” and Scheffler says that’s “upsetting.”
“If you look at the Democrats, like on this whole health care bill, they believe that there are certain things that their members need to get in line for and they kind of spank their behind when they don’t,” Scheffler says. “This is the same situation where we’re not expecting you to maybe agree with me or whoever on every issue, but there has to be some minimum standards there if you want to get RNC funding.”
Lehman also balks at the idea this 10-point list is a “test.”
“It’s a normal way to look at candidates,” Lehman says. “Are you a Republican, not just because you have an ‘R’ (behind your name) but because of what you represent? What are your values?”
The Republican National Committee meets again in January, the earliest date when this issue and the proposed “top 10 values list” for candidates can be considered.
Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, is Iowa’s third representative on the Republican National Committee. He was not available for an interview today.