He’s baaaack!

Love him or hate him, Steave Deace was hard to ignore. He had a large following so I was surprised to see him leave his evening drive program on Des Moines’ WHO Radio. Tonight while scanning TheBeanWalker.com I saw the headline:

Shock Jock Returns

The headline was below a picture of Steve Deace. According to The Politico, Deace will be launching a syndicated radio show on The Truth Network. His show will be carried on KTIA in Ames and debut August 12 the day before the Straw Poll. It shold be interesting.

Ron Paul gets BIG endorsement …

The CNN Political Ticker read "Paul gets big endorsement ahead of crucial Iowa Contest." Well, that was certainly a teaser, I had to find out who had endorsed Ron Paul.

Since it was big endorsement, I thought to myself, 'Could it be Governor Branstad? Congressman King? Congressman Latham? Senator Grassley? Bob Vander Plaats — just kidding!'  Who was this big, potentially game-changing endorsement?

Well to my surprise it is Story County GOP Chair, Corey Adams. Now, I don't think I have ever met Corey Adams, and I certainly don't mean this to be a criticism of him. But a candidate endorsement by a county chair makes the CNN ticker? Only in Iowa folks.

The Straw Poll Ballot

I want to share my perspective on the Straw Poll Ballot that was finalized in Des Moines this weekend by the SCC. There was a substantial media presence so, this will not be news for most of you. First the Ballot:

Michelle Bachmann
Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich
John Huntsman
Thaddeus McCotter
Tim Palwenty
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum
Write-in ______________________________

The six candidates who leased a space in the Land Auction were placed on the ballot automatically. That's the easy part, I would like to look at who was not placed on the ballot and give insight into some of the thought process involved.

First, all the campaigns involved were told that Saturday, July 23rd would be the deadline and the ballot would be locked after that date. Since we will be leasing real voting machines, the ballots will go to press on Monday, July 25th. So as far as the ballot goes, final is final.

SCC member, Monte Shaw started the discussion by moving that we adopt a ballot with the six candidates who were participating in the Straw Poll (Bachmann, Cain, McCotter, Palwenty, Paul and Santorum) plus, Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman, Palin and Perry. I then moved to amend his motion by removing Palin and Perry.

Palin and Perry

At the county central committee meetings I have attended recently and in private correspondence, I have gotten a lot of input from Republicans about including Rick Perry and Sarah Palin on the ballot. The input I have received has been mixed.

Some have suggested that not including them hurt the integrity of the Straw Poll and might even cost Iowa our First-in-the-Nation Caucus in the future. Further, there is precedent, Fred Thompson was on the 2007 ballot even though he had not yet declared his candidacy. Another argument was that this would discourage activists who support Palin and Perry form showing up in Ames.

My response was that, while I thank Mr Thompson for saving the Iowa Caucuses, other states will try to take away our position regardless if who is on our straw poll ballot. My thought was that the ballot should be limited to actual candidates, people who had actually declared and formed exploratory or campaign committees. Now I personally think that Governor Perry will run and Governor Palin will not. But for the SCC to place them on the ballot would be for us to take sides and worse to suggest that somehow the current field of candidates is not up to snuff and that we will try to correct the situation. Also at issue is "Americans for Perry" a 527 group that wants to see the governor run for president. They wanted to have space at the Straw Poll and intended to encourage attendees to vote for Perry. From an RPI perspective this was entering some uncharted territory with the FEC and the prudent decision was made not to allow the group space on the grounds. Without a visible presence at the event, the group stopped lobbying to have Perry on the ballot.

My criteria for excluding the two governors was simple — to be on the ballot you must actually be running for POTUS.

The vote to remove Palin and Perry from the ballot was a 5-5 tie with Chairman Strawn voting to break the tie and remove the names.

Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman

As I recall there was little debate over inclusion of Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman. All three show up in national polling and while Gingrich has been active in Iowa, none of them are participating in the Straw Poll. No one really thinks that any of the three will do well in the Straw Poll since they are not organizing an effort to get their supporters to Ames.

Johnson and Roemer

Some have asked why former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer were not included. This question would have been easier to answer had we taken National Committeewoman Kim Lehman's sage advice and come up with criteria for inclusion instead of a list of names.

In reality we did come up with criteria, be a declared candidate and either participate in the Straw Poll or show up in national polling. It would have been better had we actually stated it this way and set a polling threshold (e.g. 3%). By the time Lehman made the suggestion we were well on the way to approving the list motion and there was no effort to change it.

So, why did Johnson and Roemer not make the cut? The real reason is that no one in the room felt passionately enough that they should be on the ballot to suggest it. My sense is had someone suggested adding them, the SCC would have done it.

Write-in

The SCC did approve having a write-in space on the ballot. Write-ins will be counted and announced as part of the vote tally. So there is an opportunity for Palin, Perry or even Jimmy McMillan (formerly of The Rent is too Damn High party) to get votes.

Fred Karger

To me, the most surprising non-event of the Straw Poll is Fred Karger. Karger was one of the first declared candidates and has the distinction of being the first openly gay Republican candidate for president. Karger's primary purpose in running seems to me to bring attention to LGBT issues. The most press he seems to have gotten is a result of his ongoing feud with National Committeeman Steve Scheffler.

Had Karger decided to participate in the Straw Poll, he would have been on the ballot. Had he been on the ballot we would have extended him the same consideration and encouraged FOX News to include him in the FOX Ames Straw Poll Debate. Both of these would have given him a national stage to discuss his issues.

Entry into the Straw Poll would likely have been the best investment his campaign could have made.

Conflicts of Interest

I have addressed conflicts of interest resulting from SCC members working for or endorsing candidates in primaries on this blog before and I want to address the issue briefly in the context of the Straw Poll Ballot.

Currently their are six SCC members who either have paid (or volunteer) leadership positions with or have endorsed a presidential candidate. I want to publicly commend all of these SCC members for voluntarily recusing themselves from voting on the Straw Poll Ballot. Given the importance of the decision to the campaigns — recusing themselves was clearly the right thing to do.

While I appreciate the integrity of these six members, I still have a concern. The key votes on the ballot were 5-5 ties (broken by our chairman). Potential conflict of interest concerns kept fully one-third of the SCC members from voting! These were important decision yet they were made without the input of these six members. Missing their input reduces the effectiveness of the committee and in my opinion hurts those whom they represent.

The Ballot, the Debate and the Co-Chair

Tomorrow's GOP State Central Committee meeting promises to be one of the most interesting in quite a while. There are three primary issues on the table:

  1. The Ames Straw Poll Ballot
  2. The FOX Ames Straw Poll Debate
  3. Election of an RPI Co-Chair

Criag Robinson and Katie Obradovich both written pieces about the straw poll ballot this week. The question is, who should be on the ballot? At a minimum, the candidates who aprticipated in the Land Auction are guaranteed a spot on the ballot and the ability to address the crowd in Hilton Coliseum. Beyond this point things get a little bit murky. What about declared candidates who chose not to participate, what about declared candidates who are not polling very well and finally what about prominent Republicans who have not declred their candidacy but may decide to run?

In short should Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John Huntsman, all of whom declined to participate, be on the ballot? How about Fred Karger, or Jimmy McMillan formerly of The Rent is too Damn High Party. Perhaps the biggest question has to do with two undeclared candidates, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, should they be on the ballot.

At this point I would have to say that I am undecided. I can see both sides of the argument. I'd love to hear from readers of this blog about their ideas on this subject. i don't know how I am going to vote on Saturday.

The second issue on my list is the upcoming FOX Ames Straw Poll Debate. As with any debate the key question is who gets to participate? When the debate was first announced, we were told that RPI would have a say in who gets invited.  This week former House Speaker Christopher Rants has been lobbying SCC members on behalf of Thaddeus McCotter to include him in the debate.

Finally, there will be an election for co-chair to replace Jim Kurtenbach who resigned to join the Palwenty campign. So far only current SCC members Tim Moran and Bill Schickel and former member Eldon Pals have been actively seeking support. There are plenty of rumours abouy other candidates but none have come out publicly.

As always SCC meetings are open to the public. The SCC does have the option of going into executive (closed) session by a majority vote. There is a chance that this meeting could end up going into executive session.

RPI co-chair election

Last month, Jim Kurtenbach stepped down as RPI co-cahir in order to take a position with the Palwenty campaign. RPI rules did not require him to step down, but the executive officers of RPI (and this blogger) have all promised to remain neutral in primaries and the caucus while serving. Jim was unanimously re-elected to a second term and his firm principled leadership will be missed.

The State Central Comittee will met on July 23rd. The main focus of this meeting will be the upcoming Ames Straw Poll and the Fox Debate that goes along with it. Now there is a new agenda item — election of a co-chair. While there have been a number of rumors, so far only two candidates have publicly announced, State Central Committee members Tim Moran and Bill Schickel.

I have worked with both of these guys and I think that either one would make a good co-chair. It will be a tough decision.

If any other names pop up between now and then, I will post them on this blog.