Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney reality check edition

Speaking in "his best precinct, the top-level donor conference call," Mitt Romney announced this morning that he will not run for president a third time. Though the odds against a successful bid for the presidency would seem obvious to any casual politics watcher, Romney appears to have genuinely believed that he could win in 2016 with a sharper message. But many of his top donors, bundlers, and early-state volunteers were reluctant to board the Romney train one more time. In what may have been the last straw, yesterday news broke that David Kochel will soon move to Miami to work as "senior strategist" for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's new political action committee. Kochel was Romney's top Iowa consultant during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles but is expected to become Bush's national campaign manager once Jeb makes his presidential race official.

Kochel told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that a lot of Iowans "will be interested in signing up" with Jeb Bush, adding that "You compete everywhere because that's how you win delegates." Some people had speculated that Bush might bypass the Iowa caucuses, seen to favor socially conservative candidates. He skipped Representative Steve King's cattle call "Iowa Freedom Summit" last weekend in Des Moines, where several of the speakers took shots at him.

In general, Bush has spent the last month on major donor contacts and strategizing rather than public appearances. Bank on him to raise far more money than anyone else in the large presidential field during the first half of this year. He could raise as much as the rest of the field combined.

With Romney out, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie looks like the only person who can compete with Jeb for the "establishment Republican" niche. He reminded the audience at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he's visited this state eleven times since 2010. You can listen to that speech at Radio Iowa.

Iowa Republican power-broker Bruce Rastetter spearheaded a "draft Christie" before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. So far this cycle, he is staking out a more neutral position. Last week Rastetter's public relations team announced plans to hold an Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines on March 7. About two dozen possible presidential candidates from both parties have been invited to participate; the full list is in a press release I've enclosed after the jump. Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa this week that Jeb Bush is "very interested" in attending the forum.  

While most of the speakers at King's overly long Freedom Summit came to town solely for that occasion, 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum toured the state for several days afterward. He is still pushing a message I think Republicans should hear about how the GOP could better connect with working-class Americans. Radio Iowa posted the full audio here. According to Iowa Starting Line, Santorum didn't draw a lot of applause at the Freedom Summit but was well-received at his small events this past week. Nevertheless, I expect most of his 2012 supporters to flow to other candidates this year, especially Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz.

I still like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's chances to win the Iowa caucuses. By all accounts he made a good impression on the Freedom Summit crowd. So did Ben Carson, but I don't see Carson putting together a professional campaign operation. Radio Iowa posted the full audio and highlights from the Walker speech here. Click here to listen to Ted Cruz, another crowd favorite.

In contrast, former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin bombed at the Freedom Summit, done in by a malfunctioning teleprompter. With her public speaking experience, she should have been able to wing it. I had to laugh when I saw Sam Clovis bash her to the Sioux City Journal's reading audience. He's probably still bitter that Palin endorsed Joni Ernst for Senate last spring when Clovis was campaigning as the true conservative in the GOP field.

The Republican Party of Iowa is accepting straw poll venue bids until Thursday, February 12. A recent press release said "Venue proposals should be able to accommodate large crowds and have ample parking." The major fundraiser coming this August has traditionally been held in Ames, but I'm hearing there will be a strong push for Farm Progress Show in Boone. The State Fairgrounds in Des Moines are another leading contender for the event.

In news from the Democratic side, Mike Allen reported for Politico that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July." A lot of Iowa Democrats are upset that Clinton has in effect frozen the field of play. They won't be happy if she leaves everyone hanging until mid-summer. By this point in 2007, several Democratic presidential candidates already were opening field offices in key Iowa cities.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley made his first Iowa hire recently. Jake Oeth, who served as political director for Bruce Braley's U.S. Senate campaign, is now doing outreach for O'Malley as a consultant to the O'Say Can You See PAC. According to Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line, O'Malley had been recruiting Oeth for some time. The former Maryland governor has Iowa connections going all the way back to Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign and paid his dues last year with several Iowa visits, including the keynote speech for the state Democratic Party convention and fundraisers for Democratic candidates. Although some consider the former Maryland governor a possible rival to Clinton, I see him more as a back-up candidate if some unexpected development prevents Clinton from running. Political Action opened a Des Moines office for the Run Warren Run effort two weeks ago. I've posted the announcement after the jump; it mentions the first Iowa staff hires. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, I think the "draft Warren" effort is mostly a waste of progressive energy and resources. Not that I'm against house parties for liberals, but they could be organizing around a more practical political cause. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit Warren won't change the fact that she is not running for president. Pat Rynard attended the Run Warren Run office kickoff party on January 29 and posted his thoughts on the campaign's "murky mission."

I haven't heard much lately about U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who formed an exploratory committee late last year to consider a presidential bid. I never bought into him as a serious rival to Clinton, and he didn't respond adeptly to the first real scrutiny of his PAC's activities. I'm keeping an open mind about the Democratic race until the field is set, but if Webb turns out to be the only alternative candidate, I will be caucusing for Hillary.

Any comments about the Iowa caucuses are welcome in this thread.

January 20 press release from the Iowa Agriculture Summit:

2016 Presidential Hopefuls Lineup Invited to Participate

West Des Moines, IA - Iowa entrepreneur and philanthropist Bruce Rastetter (BIO) today announced the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit, providing a unique forum for potential and likely presidential candidates from both major parties to discuss issues of vital importance to the Iowa and national economies.

The forum will be held Saturday, March 7, at the Elwell Family Food Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines.

"Every four years, Iowa becomes an epicenter of American politics, often shaping and almost always reflecting national policy movements. Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a forum solely dedicated to matters that directly affect Iowa farmers who feed and fuel not just the country, but the world," said Rastetter, who said the forum will also feature other elected officials and public policy leaders. "The 2015 Iowa Ag Summit will highlight and promote agriculture. Most importantly, the bipartisan event will allow elected officials and public policy leaders to have a public discussion on issues that are vital to the Iowa and American economy."

Invited speakers include Vice President Joe Biden, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, New York businessman Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.

Rastetter said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, both who have been "very supportive of the ag summit," are also in the line-up of speakers.

Each speaker will appear alone with Rastetter on stage for 20 minutes to discuss a range of issues that includes modern agriculture, renewable fuels, biosciences, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), grain and livestock markets, land conservation and federal subsidies.

"This format will create an environment for a serious discussion of the issues that matter most to Iowans and Americans: how do we feed the world and ensure that we have the strongest economy in an ever-more competitive global marketplace," Rastetter said.

For more information, please visit: For ticketing information, contact Jill Ryan at 515-282-3000 or

January 15 press release from Political Action:

Run Warren Run Effort Announces New Iowa Field Team, Opening of Des Moines Campaign Office

By Brian Stewart. Thursday, January 15 2015

National Campaign Professionals and Obama Alums Also Join Effort Encouraging Elizabeth Warren to Run for President

DES MOINES, IOWA - In an expansion of the Run Warren Run effort in Iowa, Political Action is announcing the hiring of Blair Lawton as the campaign's Iowa field director and the hiring of four other field organizers. The group also announced the opening of a campaign office in Des Moines.

The announcement comes less than one month after more than 100 Iowans met in Des Moines to kick off the Run Warren Run effort in the state. Nationwide, more than 240,000 Americans have signed on to support the growing campaign, which is being run by MoveOn and Democracy for America.

Blair Lawton, who will lead Run Warren Run on-the-ground organizing efforts in Iowa, is a native of Western Iowa and a graduate of Morningside College in Sioux City. Lawton served as 2014 get-out-the-vote director for the Alaska Democratic Coordinated Campaign and as a regional field director for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa.

"As a native Iowan, I know first-hand how critical a role the Hawkeye State plays in shaping our presidential contests, and I'm excited to join hundreds of thousands of Americans who are energized by Sen. Warren's progressive economic vision," Lawton said.

Lawton will work out of MoveOn's new Run Warren Run campaign office, which will open before the end of the month at 419 SW 8th St in Des Moines.

"Blair is a disciplined organizer and manager with a strong record of commitment to developing volunteer leadership and running successful grassroots campaigns," explained Ilya Sheyman, executive director of Political Action. "With a year until the Iowa Caucuses, we're ready to show Sen. Warren that she has the grassroots support necessary to mount a successful campaign, and thousands of Iowans are ready for her vision of giving everyone a fighting chance."

MoveOn has also hired four Iowa-based regional field directors to support the Run Warren Run effort:

Adam Beaves, an Ankeny, Iowa native who recently worked on the Pat Murphy for Congress campaign and has worked in the Iowa House of Representatives and for the campaign of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and President Obama's re-election;

Susana Cervantes, who has worked for the White House, Organizing for America, the United Farm Workers, and the Nevada Coordinated Campaign;

Beth Farvour, who recently organized with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Mary Burke for Governor campaign;

and Margaret Jarosz, a Milwaukee native who worked on the Wendy Davis for Governor campaign and as a campaign manager for a Wisconsin State Assembly candidate, and who volunteered with the campaign to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and with President Obama's re-election campaign.

At the national level, MoveOn has also brought on experienced progressive campaign professionals Tom Swan and Adam Ruben to serve as senior advisors to the campaign. Swan managed Ned Lamont's successful campaign to beat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut; he is currently the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. Ruben, a consultant to progressive organizations, is the former Political and Field Director for MoveOn and ran MoveOn's massive field campaigns to elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He was previously national field director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Additionally, MoveOn has retained the services of Revolution Messaging, FitzGibbon Media Inc., and Art Not War to assist in the Run Warren Run effort.

Scott Goodstein, who was External Online Director for President Obama's 2008 campaign, founded Revolution Messaging in 2009. Revolution Messaging is providing digital strategy, video and design support for Run Warren Run; their team includes Arun Chaudhary, who served as the first White House Videographer and as the New Media Road Director on President Obama's 2008 campaign, and Tim Tagaris, who served as Digital Director on Sen. Chris Dodd's presidential campaign in 2007 and created the Service Employees International Union's new media department. Revolution Messaging's Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director for President Obama's 2008 campaign, and Walker Hamilton, site architect for Obama for America in 2008, are also advising on strategy for Run Warren Run.

FitzGibbon Media, whose founder and President, Trevor FitzGibbon, served as Communications Director for President Obama's 2008 campaign in New Hampshire and whose Managing Director, Doug Gordon, has worked on Presidential, House and Senate campaigns, will be serving as the lead communications firm for the Run Warren Run campaign.

Art Not War, led by former MoveOn National Creative Director Laura Dawn and co-founders Daron Murphy and David Ambrose, will organize artists, produce cultural events, and create video content for Run Warren Run.

In December, more than 81 percent of voting MoveOn members opted to launch this effort to encourage Elizabeth Warren to run for president, citing her continuous efforts to fix a rigged political and economic system that is failing America's families. Democracy for America members voted to join the effort shortly after MoveOn's announcement.

On Saturday, MoveOn and Democracy for America members will hold an event launching the Run Warren Run campaign in New Hampshire, where Run Warren Run will also assemble an on-the-ground operation.

The Run Warren Run campaign website and launch video at focus on telling the story of the Massachusetts Senator, who has become known as a tireless, passionate advocate for giving all Americans a fighting chance in an economy rigged in favor of big banks and corporate interests. MoveOn and Democracy for America have pledged to invest at least $1.25 million into the effort.



For more information, or for interviews with a representative, please contact

  • Christie/Bush

    It will be interesting to see how/if Chris Christie begins to criticize Jeb Bush.  

    Not to tip my hand too much, but I have to say that Jim Webb is a very knowledgeable guy, and I hope this cycle doesn't lead to a lot of Webb bashing.  The media is incorrectly portraying him as an angry white guy.  

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