Sam Clovis quits as Rick Perry's Iowa chair: Where will he land? (updated)

Former U.S. Senate and state treasurer candidate Sam Clovis has quit as Iowa chair of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, Catherine Lucey reported for the Associated Press yesterday. An influential figure for social conservatives, Clovis backed Rick Santorum before the 2012 caucuses but ruled him out early this year. When he signed on with the Perry campaign in June, Clovis told the Washington Post that he had seriously considered Senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and business leaders Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump. Yesterday Philip Rucker quoted Clovis as saying he will pick a new candidate soon.

My money’s on Cruz, for several reasons.

UPDATE: The joke’s on me! I thought Clovis sincerely believed in conservative principles, but he signed on as Trump’s national co-chairman. More details are at the end of this post. Just for fun, I included comments Clovis made when endorsing Santorum on 2011. He must have changed his criteria for candidates, because the standards he listed four years ago don’t apply to Trump in any way, shape, or form.

The Texas senator picked up talk show host Steve Deace’s endorsement last week. Deace and Clovis see eye to eye often, and Deace endorsed Clovis during last year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

Jindal could be a long-shot possibility, since he has been hitting family values themes hard on the stump, and he recorded a radio ad for Clovis’s state treasurer campaign last year. Then again, Huckabee also cut a radio spot for that campaign, which wasn’t enough to get him on the Clovis short list.

Cruz looks like a much more viable candidate than Jindal, who was relegated to the “kids’ table” debate earlier this month. The Texas senator just put on a huge religious rally in Des Moines last Friday, while Jindal has to rely on the Believe Again super-PAC to organize much smaller Iowa events on his behalf. The main super-PAC backing Cruz raised ten times as much during the first half of the year as Jindal’s super-PAC. That was a big factor in Deace’s decision to endorse Cruz:

He’s what we’ve been waiting for: an end to the false choice between our principles and electability. He has proven courage of conviction, a commitment to our principles, but he’s also raised the resources and put the sort of national campaign together on the ground that it takes to actually defeat the GOP establishment for the nomination. He is ready to run a national campaign. And we believe this makes him our best chance to offer the American people a real choice and not an echo for a change.

Clovis told Rucker that watching Trump’s campaign is “fascinating,” “like watching NASCAR.” But Trump hasn’t had a consistently conservative record, which I suspect will be a deal-breaker for Clovis.

As for Fiorina, she is a strong communicator and performed about as well as Cruz in the latest Public Policy Polling survey of Iowa Republicans. She is trying to appeal to both the business and social conservative wings of the GOP. But I think the Cruz campaign’s stronger organization will pull Clovis in that direction. It’s not just Deace; Cruz recently named Dick and Betty Odgaard, Iowa’s self-styled martyrs to marriage equality, as his campaign’s “religious liberty ambassadors.” Reasonable minds can differ about the value of endorsements in an Iowa caucus campaign, but the Odgaards are bona fide celebrities on the religious right. All because they were trying to run their for-profit business like a church.

Spin your own Iowa caucus scenarios in this thread.

P.S.- Not everyone is ready to write Perry’s campaign obituary yet. Several commentators, including the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston, have noted that super-PACs supporting Perry have quite a bit of cash, even as the governor’s campaign failed to raise enough hard dollars to keep paying his campaign staff this month. Those groups are ready to run an aggressive field effort in Iowa, as well as television commercials supporting Perry. The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel and Jeffrey C. Kummer reported over the weekend that super-PACs are taking on “new roles” in this year’s Iowa caucus campaign, doing unprecedented field work and voter outreach on behalf of candidates. Pfannenstiel and Kummer failed to mention the trend’s most important consequence, however. The Federal Election Commission’s failure to enforce reasonable rules against coordination, combined with the super-PACs’ ability to raise unlimited amounts from individual donors, means that those groups will be able to keep otherwise non-viable contenders in the race long after those candidates would have been forced to quit for lack of money in previous election cycles.

Clovis told the AP’s Lucey,

“I don’t want this to be anything negative at all,” Clovis said. “They’ve got to transition from campaign mode to where the super PAC comes in and picks up some of that slack. The governor is a remarkable man and I’ve been honored to be part of his campaign.” […]

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said in a statement that despite Clovis’ leaving, Perry remains “committed to competing in Iowa, as well as South Carolina and New Hampshire, and there are many people across the country who continue to work to elect Rick Perry as president.” She added that the campaign wished Clovis well.

Livingston observed that John McCain’s campaign “went nearly broke and fired most of the staff” in the summer of 2007, but recovered in time to win the nomination. Newt Gingrich’s campaign fell apart in June 2011, but six months later, Gingrich was still picking up big Iowa endorsements and seemed positioned to finish in the top tier on caucus night.

UPDATE: Jonathan Tilove has more comments from Clovis at the Austin American-Statesman:  

“I have not been off the phone for 200 miles,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how much interest this has stirred. I live in Iowa and I don’t understand the impact or the reach of this. I don’t think of myself as that important a person.”

Clovis explained his decision.

“I had not heard from the campaign in quite some time and I assessed that they were making adjustments based on their situation and I was not part of that conversation. I had said I would hang in there with him early on but I never heard from them. It made it difficult. I wasn’t party to the communications, I didn’t know what the schedule was.” […]

“I think the world of Gov. Perry. I think he’s a great guy, a great man and I really admire him and I was honored to be part of the campaign, but I just felt like that perhaps they had priorities they needed to deal with and they didn’t need to worry about me.”

Former Iowa GOP State Central Committee member Jamie Johnson told Tilove, “I’m on board. I can’t speak to what everybody else is doing but I’m standing with the governor.”

A senior figure in Rick Santorum’s campaign before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Johnson announced plans to back Cruz in 2013 but took a position on Perry’s staff in March of this year.

SECOND UPDATE: Wonder what the salary is for this position:

Trump’s team hired prominent Iowa Republican Sam Clovis to be his campaign’s national co-chairman, according to the Washington Post.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Clovis to our team and am confident he will be a great asset in Iowa and around the country as we continue to lead all local and national polls and share my vision to make American great again,” Trump said in a statement.

Robert Costa reported for the Washington Post:

Chuck Laudner, an organizer leading Trump’s efforts in Iowa, has been campaigning across the state for months in a navy-blue bus with thick white block letters spelling “TRUMP” across the side. It has made stops in Wal-Mart parking lots and at small festivals, with supporters handing out T-shirts and stickers while enlisting volunteers.

Clovis abruptly left Rick Perry’s presidential campaign this week as the former Texas governor struggles to raise money and ascend in the polls. He had been Perry’s Iowa chairman. Laudner, a close friend, had been courting him privately for weeks, urging him to join the Trump ranks.

Trump and Clovis appeared together Tuesday night at a rally in Dubuque, Iowa. Clovis, a gregarious and goateed presence in state politics who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014, introduced Trump as thousands cheered the candidate’s attacks on his Republican rivals and his hard-line views on illegal immigration, a central issue for Iowa conservatives.

Laudner was a leading figure in Santorum’s campaign before the 2012 caucuses, so he would have worked closely with Clovis.

While in Dubuque, Trump mixed it up with the most famous journalist in this country’s Spanish-language media:

At first, Trump refused to entertain the queries of [Jorge] Ramos, who butted in to ask the GOP frontrunner a question at a news conference, even after Trump had called on another reporter.

“Sit down; you weren’t called,” Trump flatly told Ramos.

“Go back to Univision,” Trump said dismissively, as Ramos argued against Trump’s plans to deal with millions of people in the United States illegally.

“This guy stands up and starts screaming,” Trump told the reporters who remained in the room. “He’s obviously a very emotional person.”

THIRD UPDATE: Although it’s not Throwback Thursday yet, I thought it would be fun to look at what Clovis said when endorsing Santorum in December 2011.

Sam Clovis, a popular conservative radio talk show host in the Siouxland market from 10 – 11am each morning on KSCJ 1360-am, is endorsing former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum for President.  Clovis, whose program commands a number one rating in his time slot, has never endorsed a candidate but is taking what he considers is a major step in being involved in the political process.

Clovis said, “Many listeners and interested Iowans are always asking me who I will be supporting in the upcoming caucuses.  I think it’s time I take a stand and let people know.”  He said he came to his decision after spending months covering the election cycle and interacting with nearly all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination president to run against incumbent Barack Obama.

Clovis said, “My ideal candidate must be a conservative who believes in a constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage.”  He stated that only Rick Santorum had the experience, education and life-example to satisfy all of these characteristics.  Clovis believes that Santorum, of all the candidates, is the one most likely to follow through on his campaign promises.  He sees Santorum as trustworthy and a person who believes that individual Americans are best able to decide what is best for themselves, not some government nanny state. […]

Clovis is a 25-year veteran of the United States Air Force, an Air Force Academy graduate where he earned a degree in political science.  He holds an MBA and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama.  He has been following politics most of his life and, since going on KSCJ two years ago, has been deeply involved in analyzing policies and politics.  He has also brought to the Siouxland the very popular Serious Civics lecture series.  These presentations are rooted in the Constitution and provide context for contemporary events in America.

Having listened to many interviews and several debates featuring Clovis during the 2014 U.S. Senate primary, I can’t count how many times he bragged about his knowledge of history and intense analysis of public policy. Then he turns around and endorses the most ignorant clown in the Republican field. Whether he was jumping on the front-runner’s bandwagon or attracted by the amount of money Trump has been throwing around, I have no idea. But no one can seriously argue that Clovis made this choice on principle. I hope someone asks him why “unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage,” demonstrated by “life-example,” no longer matters.

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