"You're gonna fake it!" Iowa GOP leader rants about Trump holdouts

Republican Party of Iowa state chair Jeff Kaufmann is tired of talking to party activists who aren’t ready to commit to supporting Donald Trump in November.

In an animated speech to the Jones County Republicans on April 25, Kaufmann repeatedly reminded his audience that they “picked a team” and now need to get on board with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee. He didn’t acknowledge concerns about the former president’s abuses of power, attempts to overturn the last election, or possible felony offenses. Instead, Kaufmann depicted Republican hesitancy as rooted in Trump’s personality or mean tweets.

The state party chair also disparaged Democrats as endangering the country and operating in a “top-down” way—even as he lectured his audience to fall in line: “If you don’t like Donald Trump, you’re gonna fake it!”

Kaufmann is known for getting worked up during his speeches, and his remarks at last week’s Jones County Republican dinner in Monticello were a classic example, with a tone switching frequently from light-hearted to sarcastic to enraged. The Dubuque County GOP shared the video on their Facebook page on April 30.

All quotes below reflect my own transcriptions.


Early on, Kaufmann tried to convince the crowd not to tolerate any Democrats in public office. “I don’t like Democrats,” he said. Some might be “OK” or “decent people,” or “misguided, but their politics are absolutely so out of touch, so extreme, so coastal,” and so “top-down.”

Striking a Trumpian note of projection, Kaufmann claimed Democrats would try to steal elections in Iowa if given the chance.

He shared that at a recent event in Clayton County, people warned him that residents of that very red area really like their Democratic auditor. “Here’s the deal: you need a Republican auditor too.” He suggested that if there were a close election requiring a recount, like the GOP candidate’s six-vote win in southeast Iowa’s 2020 Congressional race, “you just see what your wonderful—and I don’t doubt it—what your wonderful Democratic auditor would do. And I’ll tell you exactly what that Democratic auditor would do: exactly what she was told.”

Maybe party matters too much, Kaufmann mused, recalling George Washington’s warning against political parties. But “that’s where we’re at right now. And so you actually have to pick a team. You really do. That doesn’t mean we all have to love each other.”

After a digression to joke about someone’s mustache, Kaufmann circled back: “But seriously: you need to pick a team. We don’t have to love each other. Don’t have to agree with each other all the time. All we have to know is that the weakest—however you define it—on our team is better than their strongest. Because they’re top-down.”

Shaking his head, he went on: “There are no more Truman Democrats. Folks, there are no more Truman Democrats when that Democrat is in power.”

Kaufmann acknowledged there might be a few Democrats around Jones County who are “wonderful people,” just like in Cedar County, where he lives.

In fact, I might trust ’em with my kids even more than a few Republicans I know that I might even vote for! Heck, I’ve got Republicans I vote for I wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with.

But we’re not electing friends. We’re not electing our patron saints. We’re electing people that are going to build a majority.

And we have to have a Republican speaker, we have to have a Republican majority leader, and we have to have a Republican governor, and for goodness’ sake, we have to have a Republican president! That’s how we set things up. So you all have clearly picked a team.


Kaufmann acknowledged some “elbows are being thrown,” with the recent Iowa caucuses and some competitive GOP primaries coming up in June. “But in the end, we all have to remember that the weakest on our team is better than their strongest.”

He then moved to what he called “the most obvious example: and that’s Donald Trump. Bottom line is, he overwhelmingly won this state.”

Some of you are excited and happy about it, Kaufmann said, while others “put your heart and soul” into supporting Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, or Nikki Haley for president.

“But the bottom line is Donald Trump has won. He won fair and square.” (Kaufmann has yet to publicly admit Trump tried to subvert a peaceful transition after Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square.)

Recalling the 2016 campaign, the GOP chair said, “I got so tired of sitting down and talking to people, and talking through the grief and the hesitancy to vote for our nominee. Give me a break, folks. You picked a team!”

If the grassroots mean anything, Kaufmann argued, you have to listen to them, and not only when they agree with you.

That’s what being on a team is all about. And so, Donald Trump has won. I’m just not going to waste any energy sitting down and trying to feel your pain if you don’t want to vote for him. I don’t have time.

I don’t have time to sit through and say, “Talk to me. Talk to me, I’m here for you. Honestly, I’ll try. I promise, I’ll try to get him not to tweet—” Stop it! Stop it! Look where we’re at right now!

Kaufman then turned his attention to conservatives’ favorite bogeymen: President Biden and transgender athletes.


Cranking up the volume, the party leader echoed Trump’s narrative about the current president. “We literally—I mean this literally, not metaphorically—have a person in the White House—I mean this literally—would not be hired to be a Wal-Mart greeter. He couldn’t stand for four hours, he couldn’t make himself heard, and I doubt if he’d figure out how those shopping carts collapse into each other.”

“Think about that. He’s got his finger on the nuclear button!” Kaufmann shouted.

Last year, the GOP leader said, he had dinner with Riley Gaines (the former collegiate swimmer who has made a career out of stoking fear and loathing of transgender athletes).

She talked about this hairy beast that was coming into her locker room and looking at the rest of the girls that were undressing! And we’re sticking up for that crap!

We don’t have time to feel your pain if you’re hesitant because Donald Trump tweets rudely sometimes. I’m not spending any time with it.

We are where we are, and the grassroots have spoke, and unless you want to be a Democrat top-down party, and you want to be a bottom-up, you’re gonna win some and you’re gonna lose some, in terms of who your preference is.

Kaufmann said he knew he was probably “preaching to the converted,” but “you’ve got to reach out to folks.”

He said he’s getting impatient, because “I’m so tired. Of course I don’t show it, I put on Mr. Happy Face. But I gotta tell you—they say, ‘I don’t know who I’m gonna vote for.’ Really? Really? You don’t know who you’re gonna vote—you’ve been a Republican all your life. You absolutely know this guy [Biden] is an imbecile,” and the people under him in the White House are “very bright,” “very left,” “very radical,” and “very vicious.”

And we’re gonna even have a conversation? I even have to waste my breath saying, talking you through—”I don’t know who I’m gonna vote for. I don’t like Biden”—Oh, hello!

“I don’t like Trump”—OK, then dislike him! For crying out loud, hate his personality, I don’t care!

Because you know what? You’re going to like 95 percent of the people that he puts in office below him, that make 99 percent of the decisions that come out of the White House. You know that! By the time that decision gets up to the Oval Office, it’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of decisions that couldn’t be made with the folks that he has appointed below him.


Switching to his sarcastic voice, Kaufmann asked his audience to show patience. “Because I know I’m going to offend some soccer moms, oh Lord, help me. I understand, and I’m probably going to offend a few people that were on the Gerald Ford campaign in ’76. Whatever! I’m a history teacher, and I really don’t care.”

Even though Iowa Republicans already enacted a transgender sports ban in 2022 and a school “bathroom bill” in 2023, GOP figures still lean on anti-trans rhetoric to illustrate a supposed threat to Iowans’ way of life.

Kaufmann told a story about spending time with his grandson, “enjoying my farm” earlier that day. “If we continue for four more years” under Biden, though, “Iowa as we know it is going to change. It’s already starting to. We got hairy beasts coming into girls’ locker rooms! We’ve got a president that outwardly is talking about increasing the taxes on unrealized gains! We’ve got craziness on electric cars. We got woke crap that makes some of the lazy professors at the University of Iowa look ambitious!”

He tossed a few more insults at university faculty, joking that he did so for the evening’s keynote speaker, Iowa Board of Regents member David Barker (who also serves on the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee).

But Kaufmann soon returned to the topic at hand, with increasing volume: “So here’s what I’m asking of you: As soon as the primary’s up, we’re going to come together as a team. If you don’t like Donald Trump, you’re gonna fake it! And we’re going to fight like our life, our heritage, and everything we are depends on this November, and this time it’s not just words.”

It’s not clear why Kaufmann is so agitated about the holdouts. No one seriously questions whether Trump will carry this state in November. True, many moderate veterans of Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign (I was raised by one) no longer identify with the GOP. The same goes for plenty of suburban “soccer moms.”

But in Iowa, those disaffected longtime Republicans appear to be outnumbered by Trump fans who previously identified as Democrats or independents—or didn’t vote at all.

Perhaps Kaufmann is concerned Republicans who have misgivings about Trump could hurt GOP candidates down-ballot. He wrapped up his remarks in Monticello with two minutes of ranting about Andy McKean, the longtime Republican state legislator and Jones County supervisor who switched parties in 2019. McKean is running for the Iowa House again in 2024 as the Democratic challenger to State Representative Steven Bradley.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • sycophants - good ole lockstep mentality on both sides of the aisle

    Have zero respect for Kauffman or anyone that says you need to blindly support their respective party’s nominee out of blind allegiance. Have voted Democrat for president since ’80 and won’t pull the lever for senile Joe. Trump and Biden sycophants are the worse!!!

  • Wow, just wow

    I’ve been to a few Republican hootenannies, (it’s been awhile), but never Kauffman harangue. Laura’s commentary and the audio should light any Democrat’s hair on fire. I’m wondering if Kauffman senses a softening of support among his flock for TRUMP? I encourage peeps here to read the TIME MAGAZINE article out yesterday (https://time.com/6972021/donald-trump-2024-election-interview/). It curled my toes. It’s not stuff you don’t know or haven’t been afraid of before, but we’re a handful of votes in key swing votes from turning the country over to a lunatic. Let’s do our part. Organize the vote.

  • Dear ModerateDem

    First, Biden is old, but not senile. I’m not a Biden sycophant, but I am an apologist (in the historical sense). I have my doubts about certain Biden policies (his refugee policy, for example), but on the whole, he is an experienced man, surrounded by smart, sincere people, and frankly a very good person who has had his share of grief. In November, Biden and Trump will be our choices. As Biden says, “democracy is on the line.”

  • Rabid?

    Me thinks he doth protest too much! I’d say this is evidence a) that the Republican party is cracking up; b) that he fears Andy McKean might win the state House race; and c) that Kaufman was so shocked by Biden’s shouted State of the Union speech that he’s trying to repeat the performance himself.

    Thanks, Laura, for calling attention to this rant which tells Republicans to fall in line because the Democrats are a top-down party. LOL!

  • blind loyalty is frightening

    I’m frightened by Kauffman’s blind allegiance to Trump. My shop steward says Biden is a train wreck and I’m trying to help get RFK Jr on the ballot in Iowa. My Republican friends say democracy is on the line if Biden is re-elected – the same rhetoric Democrats say about Trump.

  • Kaufmann is a good seller

    We can disagree with Kaufmann but this man is driven and persuasive. His work was instrumental in preserving the Republican caucus in Iowa. Iowa Democrats can learn from Kaufmann.

  • Some research has shown that in general...

    …when evaluating a candidate, Republican voters tend to care more about the Republican candidate’s loyalty to the Republican Party, while Democratic voters tend to care more about the Democratic candidate’s positions on issues. I don’t think Kaufmann’s kind of be-loyal-to-our-team-or-else speech would work very well on most of the Democratic voters I know.

  • Substance

    There is nothing of policy in Kaufmann’s vitriolic rant. Because then he would have something that clear thinking people could objectively address and debate. Instead, remove any substantive policy discussion so the GOP stance isn’t challenged and it doesn’t have to defend it’s destructive actions. Remove intellectual understanding and substitute emotional us versus them-ism – just like what happened in 1930’s Germany. Sickening.

  • A weighty issue?

    No doubt Kaufman is tired, and the cause of his fatigue pretty obviously is his obesity. He rants about those “hairy beasts coming into bathrooms,” which has never happened in Iowa. Meanwhile, he is one of more than 1 million Iowans who suffer from obesity. A question looming before Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention health insurers, will be who will pay the $1,000 per month costs per patient for those new weight loss drugs coming onto the market. Amer;icans are so sensitive (woke?) about their weight that Kaufman and others won’t even discuss the matter when they rant on about “runaway spending,” but the ultimate question of who will bear the cost of the drugs that Kaufman obviously will want and need is the great sleeper issue of our time. The Republicans stand ready to guard our bathrooms and libraries, and they certainly are willing to be in doctor’s offices when women go for exams, but they are silent on what is no doubt the biggest health care question we face.