Republican Insanity

2012 Republican National Convention: Day 2The election of 2012 was a crushing national defeat for the national Republican Party. A defeat like this forces us to do some soul-searching. Why did we lose? Was it our message, our messenger(s), our ground game? Some have suggested that we abandon our core principles, change with the times. Others have said we need to re-frame our message to make it more attractive to women, minorities and youth. Others have said that we are not conservative enough and we need to double down on our core principles.

Unfortunately, serving on the Republican State Central Committee does not give me clairvoyance. What I do know is that we need to change. We cannot carry the failed strategies of 2012 into the crucial 2014 mid-terms.

… doing the same old thing the same old way doesn’t sound like a winning option.

It’s time for a new day, a re-birth at the RNC. The above quote is from our newly-elected RNC chairman. The only problem is the newly-elected chairman, this champion of change, this leader who will help us put the past behind us is non other than Reince Priebus. Priebus is the same RNC chairman who oversaw the train wreck of 2012.

The Republican National Committee unanimously re-elected the chairman who led our party to the defeats of 2012. The only announced challenger, couldn’t even find enough support to be formally nominated.

I have heard the arguments, Reince is a great fundraiser. He put the party back on a positive footing after the disastrous term or Michael Steele. Reince was great to work with here in Iowa.

No matter what good qualities he may possess, the job of the RNC Chairman is to win elections. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all, despite the 2012 losses in Iowa, we overwhelmingly re-elected A.J. Spiker too.

As Einstein supposedly said:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

RPI, the SCC and the elections of 2014

senateIn Iowa politics, we refer to the non-presidential years as off-years. The reason is that  Iowa’s First in the Nation Caucuses are the main event. Several Republicans seem to be jockeying for position leading up to the 2016 caucuses, we’ve heard from Jindahl, Rubio, and Huckabee. Rand Paul went on a trip to Israel, arranged by the American Family Association, with National Committeewoman Tamara Scott and RPI Chairman AJ Spiker. But last week, everything changed. When Tom Harkin decided not to seek a sixth term in the Senate. Politicos have been waiting anxiously for the retirement of both Grassley and Harkin. For Harkin to step down at a time when his seat will be up for election in the sixth year of a Democrat president’s term is a dream come true for Iowa Republicans.

There are a number of intriguing scenarios, including a potentially competitive governor’s race, two open US House seats and the open US Senate seat. No matter who decides to run or which scenario plays out, 2014 will certainly be an intense political year.

Watching the blogs and commentators, a common sub-theme has been the question of whether SCC members will remain neutral in the inevitable primaries. I can tell you with certainty, that SCC members will not recuse themselves from the 2014 primaries.

RPI has no rule preventing SCC members or officers from endorsing candidates or even taking paid positions on campigns during primaries.

Five members have, in the past, served concurrently in RPI leadership positions and as paid staffers for campaigns:

  • National Commiteeman Steve Scheffler (Steve has said he will not take a paid position in the future)
  • RPI Chairman AJ Spiker
  • RPI Co-Chairman David Fischer
  • RPI Finance Chairman Drew Ivers
  • SCC Member Wes Enos (Wes has said he will not take a paid position in the future)

At both the 2002 and 2012 state conventions, delegates rejected amendments to the RPI constitution calling for some form of neutrality for RPI members in primaries. (While I was a co-author of the 2012 amendment, I believe it over-reached. I still believe that the grassroots would support a move to prevent party leaders form getting paid by campaigns in primaries, though I digress.)

The SCC Organization Committee is considering a proposed amendment to the RPI bylaws. The purpose of the amendment it to keep RPI neutral in primaries, however the amendment specifically calls out the right of members to support candidates in primaries. The last line of the proposed amendment is:

… This section shall not preclude any member of The Republican Party of Iowa from individually supporting candidates in Primary races.

Some have read this post (pictured below) on the party’s Facebook to say that SCC members will remain neutral in primaries. What this actually says is that the party will remain neutral — members will not.


To be honest, I don’t really have much of a problem with SCC members endorsing primary candidates. I have promised that I will not do so, but I set that standard for myself and promised my district that I would honor it. My daughter is a 1L at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, she says that I am naive because I hold myself to a higher standard than those around me, even if it gives them an advantage.

I do however have a problem with party leaders taking a paycheck from primary candidates. I think it sends a message that this party can be bought — maybe it can. (And yes, I had a problem with Matt Strawn taking a paycheck from Strong America Now who was trying to influence the 2012 caucuses.)

So the question isn’t whether SCC members will interject themselves into the 2014 primaries — rather the question is, which members and who will be paying.

The RPI Chairman Race

This Saturday, the State Central Committee will meet in Des Moines to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa. There are no last minute candidates, at least not yet. The race has come down to two well known, experienced members of the State Central Committee, current RPI chairman AJ Spiker and current co -chairman Bill Schickel. Like the Iowa State bowl game, it is a rematch of the last chairman race when Matt Strawn stepped down. AJ won that contest by a single vote over Schickel.

In a previous post I wrote about the role of the RPI chairman and said;

… the single most important job an SCC member has is to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa.

The RPI chairman is elected by a majority vote of the State Central Committee. As I prepare to carry out this most important of my duties, I decided to take the opportunity and share some of my thoughts on the issue. I will start by saying that as an SCC member I have gotten to know Bill and AJ and I like them both.

Let me start by stating that as RPI chairman, AJ Spiker is not responsible for the Iowa GOP’s dismal electoral performances in 2012. On the other hand, he and the team he assembled (as well as the SCC) did not exactly lead the party to victory either.

We had the same situation in the recent past with Ray Hoffman when was RPI chair during the electoral train wreck of 2006. When the SCC chose to elect Hoffman to another term, I was so angry that I couldn’t talk to any of my friends on the committee for weeks. The re-election of Hoffman and the secrecy that surrounded it were key factors in my deciding to run for SCC.

Ray Hoffman was not the reason we got swept in 2006 and AJ Spiker is not the reason we got swept again in 2012. But, having lead the party to defeat, it was then and is now, time to search for new leadership.

Therefore, I am publicly supporting Bill Schickel for RPI chairman. My support for Bill is likely a Quixotic effort. I believe that the coalition of evangelicals and libertarians that elected AJ and swept our conventions in 2012 is strong enough to carry the day and re-elect AJ. I guess, it shouldn’t be a surprise, it sounds like the RNC will also re-elect Reince Priebus.

Whatever happened to the captain going down with the ship?