Coalition forming against Monte Shaw before IA-03 nominating convention?

Roughly 500 Republican delegates from the third Congressional district will meet at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale on June 21 to select a nominee against Staci Appel. I consider Monte Shaw the best-placed candidate going into the convention, despite his fourth-place finish in the June 3 voting. Several signs point to the other campaigns developing a strategy to stop Shaw at the convention. Executing that strategy won’t be easy.

Governor Terry Branstad said during his Monday morning press conference that he will remain neutral in the IA-03 GOP primary. But no one I’ve talked with about this race believes that the governor doesn’t have a preference. Kathie Obradovich noted in her latest column, “Although Branstad has declared neutrality, I saw lots of ‘Shaw’ stickers on members of his staff and campaign at the April [GOP district] convention.”

The governor’s strong interest in the Congressional race is underscored by his depiction of Appel as “one of the most vicious, negative campaigners,” based on her 2006 Iowa Senate race against Julian Garrett (a personal friend of the governor). Speaking of vicious, maybe Branstad never heard of the Republican who beat Appel in 2010, the now-disgraced Kent Sorenson.

But I digress.

Conservative talk radio host Steve Deace, an early endorser of second-place IA-03 candidate Robert Cramer, laid out the case against Shaw in his latest column for the Washington Times:

[T]he undocumented Democrat known as Republican Governor (for life) Terry Branstad, and the corporatist shills surrounding him, could be poised to put the finishing touches on a complete rout of their own base. The end result could be the Republican Party of Iowa electing its third chairman in the last 28 months. Then nominating for Congress an agri-business lobbyist who finished fourth in the primary. A lobbyist who has until June 26 to respond to a FEC complaint filed against his campaign for receiving donations that exceed the legal limit. […]

The Branstad machine is actively working to get fourth place finisher Monte Shaw – a corporatist lobbyist who’s supported, endorsed, and donated to a long list of Iowa liberals (including the Democrat candidate for Congress in this district) – the nomination at the convention.

The donations in question were not personal campaign contributions by Shaw, but donations from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s PAC. He has been that trade association’s executive director since 2005. Its occasional support of Democratic candidates didn’t stop Shaw from serving on the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee.

Deace continued in his Washington Times column,

Keep in mind this is the same Branstad machine that criticized the Ron Paul faction for doing something similar in 2012, when they voted to award the state to the first bishop of American libertarianism instead of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. […]

Yet if the establishment successfully shoves the fourth place finisher down the base’s throat they might be risking handing a winnable district to Democrat Staci Appel, a Nancy Pelosi wannabe. […]

However, the money at stake for Mr. Branstad and his cronies may cloud their judgment. Mr. Shaw is the long-time face of Iowa’s lagging ethanol industry, which has seen its influence diminish both in Iowa and nationally in recent years. The chance to put a lobbyist for its special interests in Washington, D.C., who will paid by taxpayers as a Congressman to lobby on behalf of billions of dollars in subsidies, is probably too good of a deal for the corporatists to pass up.

Just to show how strongly Iowa conservatives oppose a lobbyist like Mr. Shaw as their nominee, the other more conservative candidates are actively working together to stop him at the nominating convention.

Craig Robinson mentioned more evidence of this cooperation at The Iowa Republican blog.

Last week’s squabble over the convention [timing and location] also showed us that not all the Third Congressional candidates get along. The campaigns of Robert Cramer, Matt Schultz, David Young, and Brad Zaun all signed a letter requesting the convention be moved [from Creston], while a fifth candidate, Monte Shaw, wasn’t even approached to see if he would sign the letter.

The other candidates seem to be suspect of Shaw and worried that the Creston location may have benefitted him since he did well in the rural parts of the district. Their zeal for wanting the convention to be held on June 14th and not June 21s also might have been motivated by the fact they didn’t want to give Shaw all that time to organize delegates before the convention.

Side note: I’ll bet Zaun and Schultz didn’t appreciate Shaw’s television commercial that ended with a female announcer saying, “Monte Shaw: No dirty laundry.” And I’ll bet Cramer didn’t appreciate Shaw demagoguing on the gasoline tax increase–especially since the Big Ag lobby groups who support raising that tax are backing Shaw.

Back to the special nominating convention. Aside from Shaw, I see Cramer as the only viable candidate. He didn’t finish far behind Zaun, and his message of uniting the business and social conservative wings of the party could be compelling. Cramer would take less baggage into the general election than Zaun or Schultz, although Appel could conceivably turn the campaign into a referendum on Bob Vander Plaats. In theory, Cramer should be acceptable to the Branstad wing, as the governor appointed him to one of the most prestigious state boards. But Cramer is much more closely linked to Vander Plaats and like-minded social conservatives.

Stopping Shaw at convention could be tricky, because no matter what conversations they have between now and June 21, candidates won’t in a position to give “their” delegates marching orders. Surprises are likely once the balloting starts. For many delegates, Shaw may come across as less objectionable than the alternatives, especially if it’s widely known that he’s the governor’s unofficial preference.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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