by Reed Galen
Saturday marked the inaugural cattle call of candidates in Iowa, the inaugural caucus state for the 2016 presidential election. I didn’t attend the confab in person, but my Twitter feed gave me the blow by blow from the comfort (and warmth) of my Southern California house. Here’s what I took away, for your consideration…
1. Steve King: King hosted the Freedom Fest on Saturday. He didn’t manage to get through the opening paragraph of his speech before ensuring that whomever the Republican nominee is next year will have to distance themselves from his positions on immigration. The other campaigns should have a standard press release starting with, “Congressman King is entitled to his opinions but…” Apparently Tom Tancredo decided to sit this one out.
2. Sarah Palin: It’s enough already. The media will cover her wherever she goes because of the potential of a pile-up that would make the Daytona 500 seem tame, and last night they got it. I’m not sure what she was going for Saturday night but whatever it was, it probably scared off the last of those who consider themselves true Palin-istas . Conservatives and Republicans should ask her to go back to Alaska and make more TV shows. Even the marginal time, oxygen and money she takes up hurts the chances of other candidates and the party at large.
3. The Donald: What can you say? The man is a marketing machine and the press will literally write down anything he says. He could go up and read the phone book and they’d print it word for word. BREAKING: He doesn’t like Bush and Romney.
4. Scott Walker: Walker’s potential candidacy has been discounted by some because of lackluster oratory. Yesterday, he seemed to shake off some of the cobwebs and come alive a bit. While he has a high hill to climb, he’s a successful, sitting governor within driving distance of the Hawkeye State. If he runs a modest, competent campaign, he could be formidable later on.
5. Ted Cruz: Cruz can speak to a very conservative audience and get them fired up. But he does so with boilerplate orthodoxy, bad jokes and little original thought. And while he espouses an almost populist philosophy during his speeches, he hasn’t yet had to answer for his familial connections to Wall Street or an Obamacare he lambastes but doesn’t personally have to deal with it.
6. “The Base”: The folks that attended the Freedom Fest on a cold January day are also many of the same people who will go to their local church to caucus a year from now, on another very cold January day. It would be an interesting analysis to survey each of the 1,500 attendees and see, aside from themselves and their immediate families, exactly how many votes they are potentially able to bring to a campaign. They are a powerful bloc who allowed both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to win the Caucuses the last two cycles, but have seen their pick falter afterwards. Given their apparent desire for purity over electability, they may well go three for three in the “One and Done” category next year.
7. Chris Christie: The Twitter accounts of Christie’s speech show a heartfelt expression of his values, even if Iowa activists remain wary of him. He also reminded them that that agreeing 100% of the time isn’t necessary to work together, but that is a rational argument for a crowd driven by passion. It also remains to be seen how Christie will perform as his days become more crowded and chaotic. Will he be able to maintain his personal charisma as he grows tired and opponents (Republican and Democrat alike) start seeding his crowds with troublemakers to fan the flames of his temper. Iowa caucus-goers are unlikely to share the admiration for telling someone to ‘sit down and shut up’ that those in New Jersey do.
8. Rick Perry: After 2012, Perry went out into the world and studied up on what challenges face the country at home and abroad. He brings a passion and zeal to his appearances that few others can match. While he has much to overcome, the story of the Texas Miracle is one he will tell again and again, and has much to admire. The largest red state in the country has created most post-recession jobs. Even with falling oil prices, Texas looks to continue its growth. Free of the Governor’s mansion for the first time in 14 years, Perry looks ready to throw himself into ’16 with all he has – and he’ll need it.
9. Mitt Romney: He didn’t show, but no one expected him to. Hard to see how he has any realistic path in Iowa this time around. If he runs, he won’t be the only one with a well-funded Super PAC. Others will model their outside efforts after Romney’s 2012 carpet-bombing of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Expect Mitt’s camp to see a steady stream of incoming fire in Iowa (and beyond) should he decide to contend again.
10. Jeb Bush: Proved again this week that he can appear alone, two thousand miles away from the rest of the field and still dominate the news. This time Bush was speaking in San Francisco and again broke with conservative orthodoxy on immigration. Activists (and the Donald) may not want another Bush, but should he run, he’ll be the force to be reckoned with early on, even in Iowa. The Bush family has a solid, multi-generational track record of doing well in Iowa.