Strawn to run Iowa GOP through 2012 elections

Matt Strawn announced yesterday that he will seek another two-year term as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. The party’s State Central Committee will formally elect a chair in January, but no serious opposition to Strawn will emerge. He has the support of Governor-elect Terry Branstad, incoming Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, and Senator Chuck Grassley.

Strawn earned another term by guiding Iowa Republicans to major gains in the state. The political climate was generally favorable to the GOP, of course, especially in the Midwest, and the huge campaign war chests of Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley gave Republicans a financial advantage. Still, Strawn helped lay the groundwork. Iowa Republicans had never focused on GOTV outside of their famed 72-hour operation just before election day. This year early voting among Republicans in the state was up 83 percent compared to 2006. According to Strawn, that success made it possible for the Republicans’ election-day GOTV to focus on state legislative races. Republicans exceeded expectations by winning six Democratic-held state Senate seats and racking up a net gain of 16 in the Iowa House.

Another reason for Republicans to stick with Strawn is that he can be a neutral figure in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. To my knowledge, Strawn didn’t publicly support any of the 2008 presidential candidates who might run again next year. He and his wife Erin have donated to various Republican candidates, including members of Congress outside Iowa during the last few cycles, but I couldn’t find any record of contributions from them to presidential candidates. CLARIFICATION: Strawn was previously Iowa caucus director for John McCain, but he wasn’t associated with any Republicans who might challenge Barack Obama in the upcoming election cycle.

The state GOP can’t afford to have many candidates copy McCain’s strategy of mostly skipping Iowa, because the “straw poll” event set for August before each presidential caucus year is a major fundraiser for the party.

Speaking of which, I was intrigued to see Bob Vander Plaats say this recently:

Advisers differ on how late [Mike Huckabee] could jump in, but Vander Plaats said he’d advise Huckabee to wait until extremely late – after the August Iowa GOP straw poll – to survey the lay of the land and make up his mind.

“He could come in as an energized, fire in the belly, Fred Thompson,” he said, referring to the former Tennessee senator’s much-anticipated run in 2008 – a late entry that fizzled when Thompson seemed to have little stomach for the rigors of the trail.

Strange advice, since the 2007 Iowa GOP straw poll was Huckabee’s breakout event, thanks in large part to a helping hand from Americans for Fair Taxation. I’m struggling to think of any example of a presidential candidate doing well in the Iowa caucuses thanks to a late start on organizing. It sounds like Vander Plaats is trying to undermine the state party’s premiere fundraising event. Perhaps he thinks downgrading the straw poll will help elevate the significance of whatever his new organization (The Family Leader) has planned. Or, maybe he believes state party leaders were involved in helping recruit Terry Branstad back into politics at a time when Vander Plaats seemed to have the GOP gubernatorial nomination locked up. I’ve always wondered how much Strawn encouraged the business leaders who lobbied Branstad to run for governor in the summer of 2009.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

About the Author(s)