Today was the 3rd The Family Leadership Summit hosted by The Family Leader. This event has become a kingmaking event for Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader with national and state Republican officials coming to kiss their rings. This event has been talked about as replacing the Ames Straw Poll. For the second year in a row – I decided to make the trek to see what this is all about with allied organization – Progress Iowa.
If you want a total rundown of the day – Progress Iowa put together a terrific live blog of the event.
I have heard number of attendees ranging from less than 1,000 to over 1,700. There are a lot of open seats – so you can judge for yourself.
The event started with Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds introducing Governor Terry Branstad to a standing ovation. They touted their home school reforms and continued to drop the word faith and mention "working together." After Governor Branstad – Congressman Steve King, Sam Clovis, and Joni Ernst followed up. What followed was one of the most disturbing videos I have ever seen. A similar video played last year before Bob Vander Plaats spoke and again after it played BVP spoke.
The video compared the Sandy Hook massacre, Benghazi, pro-choice protesters, and the Boy Scouts accepting LGBTQ scouts as the same thing while scary music played. I apologize for poor camera and recording on its side like that. Hope to figure out a fix!
The event continued with various religious right leaders including Tony Perkins, Senator Rick Santorum, and Senator Ted Cruz. Most of the messaging was not so much against LGBTQ persons as previous years but more on anti-Obama rhetoric.
Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal (shocked he gave such a well received speech), and the Benham Brothers were by far the most well received in this audience. I will say that every speaker was selling something and were very good at mentioning any books they had available.
Senator Ted Cruz focused on many different issues including foreign affairs. Governor Rick Perry was focused on the border crisis. Governor Bobby Jindal was bashing teachers unions and education.
Senator Santorum did not have the level of excitement as he has in previous years. He just doesn’t have the polished lined like a Senator Cruz. We did get a picture with Senator Santorum and I’d be foolish not to share!
The lunch was pretty bad – turkey sandwich with wet bread, cheap chips, and a small cookie. Venue isn’t the greatest. And the organizers do a poor job of incorporating adult learning theory (ensuring people move around during the day!)
Overall I’d give the event a B-. The event is very successful for The Family Leader and most importantly – Bob Vander Plaats. They can sell more books and flex their muscles. As we get closer to 2016 – be on the look out for The Family Leader to demonstrate their strength and have national leaders knocking at their door.