Weekend open thread, with Iowa GOP state convention highlights

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Republican Party of Iowa held its state convention today in Des Moines. Links and highlights are after the jump.

Three potential Republican presidential candidates showed up to network with state convention delegates. On C-SPAN’s website you can watch the speeches by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former U.S Senator Rick Santorum, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul. Radio Iowa posted some highlights, as did the Des Moines Register. Santorum’s message was probably what the delegates needed to hear most.

“The people of America, the workers of America know that President Obama’s policies have let them down, they just have to know that we care,” Santorum said.

Santorum warned simply attacking Obama won’t work and cautioned against following the “establishment’s” playbook.

“Stop listening to the voices in the big cities who want to talk about capital gains and cuts for higher income individuals’ taxes and start talking about creating growth and opportunity for all working Americans, then we will be a majority party not just in Iowa, but all across this country for a long, long time to come,” Santorum said.

Although I disagree with most of what Santorum stands for, I think he has identified real and serious problems with the Republican policy agenda as well as how candidates communicate about economic issues.

That said, Santorum is out of touch with some economic realities.

If Americans do three things, they’ll “never be in poverty” – graduate from high school, get married before you have children, and work, Santorum said.

What a joke. Most food stamp recipients work, and millions of them are married.

In other Republican Party news, there were no major convention battles over nominees for statewide office. That’s a big contrast from 2010, when Kim Reynolds had to fend off a strong challenge from Bob Vander Plaats supporters to win the nomination for lieutenant governor. Since last summer, some Republicans had speculated about a plot to replace Reynolds on the ticket in 2014. Governor Terry Branstad’s campaign appeared to take those rumors seriously, mobilizing supporters to attend precinct caucuses and later getting many Branstad backers elected as district convention delegates. Today the vote for Reynolds went smoothly.

Former Branstad aide Adam Gregg was the only candidate nominated for attorney general.

Two candidates were placed in nomination for state treasurer, but John Thompson urged his supporters to back Sam Clovis, recruited by the establishment at the last minute to block Thompson. Apparently Thompson himself is a longtime fan of Clovis.

I suspect that another reason Branstad and others urged Clovis to run for treasurer was to give diehard social conservatives a reason to show up in November. Some of Clovis’ passionate supporters are not wild about the governor or Joni Ernst, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate. They may end up disillusioned with the eventual nominee in the third Congressional district too.

Incumbents Mary Mosiman and Bill Northey did not need the state convention to vote on their nominations for state auditor and secretary of agriculture, because both were unopposed in the GOP primary for those offices. The Gregg and Clovis nominations needed convention votes because no Republican filed for those offices in time to appear on the GOP primary ballot.

In his speech to convention delegates, Branstad called for party unity. So did Iowa GOP chair Danny Carroll, but according to The Iowa Republican blog, the new State Central Committee plans to oust Carroll as soon as possible.

Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson noted that Branstad did not mention his Democratic opponent Jack Hatch in today’s speech. Instead, he went after Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. So did Ernst, in a “rehash” of her victory speech from primary night.

Speaking of Ernst, Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Noble reported an interesting tidbit in their convention piece.

Party icon Chuck Grassley, a 80-year-old U.S. senator, was scheduled to speak, but didn’t attend the convention. He got a standing ovation anyway. His grandson, Pat Grassley, said the older Grassley was fundraising on behalf of Ernst.

I’m surprised Grassley skipped the state convention. I don’t recall that happening before, but I hope some Bleeding Heartland reader will correct me if I’m wrong.

Shane Vander Hart live-tweeted the convention, including the platform debates near the end of the day. Delegates voted down nearly all the proposed amendments, dealing with a wide variety of subjects: jury instructions, net neutrality, law enforcement respecting Fourth Amendment rights, incandescent light bulbs, federal tax reform, and abortion clinic regulations, to name a few. One amendment that passed narrowly (404 delegates to 401) states that the Republican Party of Iowa opposes recognizing Sharia law, foreign law or international law in U.S. courts. Judges should only cite precedents based on U.S. law or the Constitution.

I was expecting a floor battle over the gas tax. Last month news emerged that the draft state platform included a plank stating, “We support a fuel tax increase solely allocated to the Rural Road Fund.” That’s an astounding about-face, considering that the previous state platform explicitly opposed any gasoline tax increase, as did platforms adopted at all four Iowa GOP district conventions this year. Someone must have removed that plank before today, because Vander Hart reported that there was no gas tax language in the platform given to delegates, and no one offered an amendment on the subject today.

Vander Hart’s convention wrap-up included a hilarious tweet from one of the delegates, Gregory Tapis:

Drink Coke because it is not Pepsi is the message so far. #iagop convention

Tapis later commented,

Is wanting solutions and substance too much to ask for? Pepsi tastes bad and the can doesn’t look so good so drink Coke #iagop

In fairness, some speakers at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention next weekend will likely offer the same message in reverse.

Final humorous note: the Iowa GOP has badly neglected its social media lately. Here is the state party’s official Twitter account, showing most recent tweets as of approximately 6:25 pm on June 14:

Iowa GOP twitter June 14 photo Screenshot2014-06-14at62523PM_zps94ae480d.png

Nothing informing followers about happenings at today’s convention. No tweets last week congratulating winners of the June 3 primaries–not even re-tweets of nominated candidates’ “on to victory in November” posts. They didn’t even update the twitter feed to clarify that the special convention to choose a GOP candidate in IA-03 has been moved from Creston to the Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale. Keeping a social media feed updated isn’t rocket science, and it’s not even very time-consuming. Since parting ways with social media contractor Shane Vander Hart earlier this year, the Iowa GOP hasn’t paid sufficient attention to detail on this front.

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