The Republican Party of Iowa will hold its state convention tomorrow, another milestone in what state party chairman Jeff Kaufmann describes as the “healthy” healing process after a “bruising” primary and caucus campaign.
“Now Donald Trump is going to come in and show us what kind of president he’s going to be,” Kaufmann told reporters recently. “I will guarantee you he’s going to be a stronger leader, a more transparent leader, possibly a blunter leader — but maybe that’s exactly what this country needs — than Hillary Clinton would ever hope to be.”
Kaufmann said, as party chair, he has a “front seat” ticket on the Trump “tidal wave.”
“Right now my main focus is unity and making sure that when we go to Cleveland, we show the world that we’ve got absolutely the best person to fill that White House slot and remind people just exactly who we have with Hillary Clinton,” Kaufmann said. “And what we have is eight more years of Barack Obama.”
Iowa Republicans held four congressional district conventions in April. A total of 2400 delegates elected at those events are eligible to participate in Saturday’s state convention. Kaufmann said a “very significant” number of those delegates backed Ted Cruz in the Iowa Caucuses. State Representative Sandy Salmon of Janesville is a Cruz supporter who isn’t ready to back Trump.
“There were a lot of wounds during the campaign and a lot of them, frankly, were caused by him,” Salmon said recently during a Radio Iowa interview, “and I think he does need to reach out to conservatives to heal those wounds and unify the party so that we can go forward.”
State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale is the only elected official in Iowa who supported Trump before the Iowa Caucuses. Zaun has been sharing this message with the “Never Trump” Republicans: “You really have a clear choice here. It’s either Hillary or Mr. Trump and I’m hopeful that time will heal those wounds and people will come to their senses. Hillary would be a worse alternative for our country.”
Lynn Sheets of Sully voted for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Caucus Night, but is now backing Trump.
“I finally came over to him, I guess. We’ll put it that way,” Sheets told Radio Iowa. “…He seems a little scattered, but the man’s brilliant — I’d have to say that.”
Sheets was among the 650 Iowa Republicans who gathered in Des Moines last week for a party fundraiser. Steve Kimmes of Carroll was sitting at the same table. He said it’s time to support the GOP nominee.
“I think we have to unite and band together,” Kimmes said.
Former Iowa Republican Party chairman Mike Mahaffey of Montezuma predicted all the talk about GOP turmoil over Trump will fade by fall.
“Most Republicans are going to end up supporting the Republican candidate and most Democrats will support the Democratic candidate and we’ll fight for those in the middle, like we always do,” Mahaffey told Radio Iowa.
A dozen delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland were elected at congressional district events here in Iowa last month. Another slate of national convention delegates and alternate delegates will be elected tomorrow. A nominating committee has come up with a recommended list. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds are on it. Congressman Steve King and his son, Jeff, who worked for Ted Cruz, are listed, along with Bryan English, Cruz’s Iowa campaign manager. Bob Vander Plaats, a 2010 primary opponent of Branstad’s who is now president of The Family Leader and a Cruz backer, is also on the recommended list of national convention delegates and alternates.
Iowa Democrats will hold their state convention on June 18.