Terry Branstad's warning about Ted Cruz may backfire in the Iowa caucuses

Governor Terry Branstad has long said he did not plan to endorse a presidential candidate before the Iowa caucuses. But speaking to journalists this morning at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Branstad said “it would be very damaging to our state” if Ted Cruz wins the caucuses.

The governor’s anti-endorsement could help Cruz more than it hurts him.

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IA-03: Zaun, Schultz supporters going after Shaw (updated)

More signs suggest that other candidates and their supporters see Monte Shaw as their primary threat at Saturday’s special convention to choose a Republican nominee in IA-03. Craig Robinson wrote about the multi-pronged attacks on Shaw at The Iowa Republican blog. Shaw has served as Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director since 2005, and the Liberty Iowa PAC has highlighted donations that trade association’s PAC made to Democratic candidates during the years. The Liberty PAC represents a group of former Ron Paul supporters. They have endorsed State Senator Brad Zaun in the IA-03 primary, although ironically, Zaun backed Michele Bachmann (not Paul) in the 2012 Iowa caucus campaign.

Anonymous e-mails circulated to Republican district convention delegates prompted the Shaw campaign to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week.

I had viewed Shaw and Robert Cramer as the most viable candidates going into convention. Apparently Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz and I finally agreed on something. According to Robinson, Schultz’s campaign has sent GOP delegates direct mail “comparing Schultz to Shaw and Cramer on the issues of government spending and taxes.” Meanwhile, an arm of the American Future Fund has been sending out positive mail about Schultz, while the Tea Party Express attacked Shaw for Iowa Renewable Fuels Association PAC contributions to Democrats including “Staci Appel, Chet Culver, Mike Gronstal, Chris Hall, and Pat Murphy.”

I’ll believe an informal survey showing David Young in a strong position when other campaigns start attacking Young. So far, he does not appear to be viewed as a threat. One could argue that’s a great place to be in a contest likely to force multiple ballots, but I still don’t see delegates nominating a career Congressional staffer over rivals who have spent most of their adult lives in Iowa.

UPDATE: Added more details on the convention procedure below and a new argument against Schultz I hadn’t heard before.

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IA-03: David Young gets talking point to take to convention

With only a few days left before special convention delegates choose a Republican nominee in Iowa’s third Congressional district, David Young got a boost from a “poll” by the conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts. The blog set up a closed, online survey last week and circulated the link to delegates via e-mail.

There’s no way to know whether the 118 people who filled out the survey are representative of some 500 district convention delegates or alternates who will gather in Urbandale on June 21. If they are, it’s good news for Young, who finished fifth in the June 3 voting. Asked which candidate they support, 27 percent of delegates named Young, equal to the percentage backing State Senator Brad Zaun, who won a plurality of votes in the primary. Some 19 percent of delegates who responded named Robert Cramer, 14 percent Monte Shaw (widely seen as Governor Terry Branstad’s favored candidate), and just 8 percent named Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. The results were even better for Young on the “second choice” question: 34 percent of respondents named him, way ahead of 17 percent for Zaun, 14 percent for Schultz and Cramer, and 10 percent for Shaw.

Young’s campaign was quick to spread the news in an e-mail blast I’ve enclosed below.

I had assumed Shaw held the advantage in a convention scenario, as he has longstanding ties with GOP activists, and to my mind, would be seen as a less-offensive alternative to some other candidates in the race. But if this survey is representative, Young has a chance of filling that “least offensive” niche. Maybe conservatives working together to block Shaw are succeeding in creating a bit of a backlash against the leading establishment candidate.

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Coalition forming against Monte Shaw before IA-03 nominating convention?

Roughly 500 Republican delegates from the third Congressional district will meet at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale on June 21 to select a nominee against Staci Appel. I consider Monte Shaw the best-placed candidate going into the convention, despite his fourth-place finish in the June 3 voting. Several signs point to the other campaigns developing a strategy to stop Shaw at the convention. Executing that strategy won’t be easy.

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What caused the big drop in Iowa Republican primary turnout?

Earlier this year, I would have predicted high Republican turnout for Iowa’s June 3 primary elections. The five-way race for the U.S. Senate nomination was highly competitive, as was the six-way contest in the open third Congressional district. Multiple candidates contested GOP primaries in the first and second Congressional districts too. The 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses, which involved going out for an hour or more on a cold night in January, attracted a record turnout of roughly 122,000 people.

Yet according to unofficial results, just 158,031 Iowans cast ballots in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, and 156,275 cast ballots in the governor’s race, where Terry Branstad had a token challenger.

The 2010 midterm election saw much higher Republican turnout, with some 227,404 people voting for one of the three GOP gubernatorial candidates. There weren’t any high-profile statewide Republican primary contests in 2006, but in the 2002 midterm year, 199,234 Iowans cast ballots in the three-way GOP primary for governor, and 197,096 Iowans cast ballots in the two-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

In IA-03, five of the six Republican candidates raised enough money to run district-wide campaigns before this year’s primary. Yet only 42,948 Iowans voted in a Congressional district with 160,660 active Republican voters as of June 2014. The seven-way 2010 GOP primary in IA-03 attracted more than 46,000 votes in a district that included only one-fifth of the state’s population at the time and 118,850 active Republican voters. (Iowa lost one of its Congressional districts after the 2010 census).

A similar story took shape in IA-02, where about 30,500 people cast ballots in this year’s GOP primary, compared to nearly 40,000 who voted in the 2010 primary, at a time when the district covered one-fifth of the state’s population rather than one-fourth.

In this thread, please share your thoughts on why Republicans didn’t show up to vote in larger numbers this year. Julie Stauch, a veteran of many Democratic campaigns, speculated that the low turnout “is the cumulative result of every extreme and outrageous statement over the last four years. The current Republicans in Iowa are only talking to those who agree with them 100 percent, which creates a rapidly shrinking base as every outrageous statement drives away a few more people. We can see the effect of this from the loss of 40 percent of the 2010 participants. That’s a serious decline over any range of time, but very bad over four years.”

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IA-03 district convention speculation thread (updated)

For the first time since 2002, a special district convention will select an Iowa Congressional nominee. (Steve King snagged the nomination in IA-05 that year after none of the four Republican candidates reached the 35 percent threshold.) After the jump I’ve posted the unofficial results from yesterday’s six-way primary in IA-03 and my thoughts on who takes the strongest case to convention delegates who will meet on June 21 at Creston High School. UPDATE: Creston will not be the location after all; Iowa GOP leaders are scrambling to find a new location and date. More details below.

Spin your own IA-03 scenarios in this thread. I’m curious to see how Democratic candidate Staci Appel responds to this unusual situation. Will she start building a narrative against one or more of the contenders, or hold her fire until after June 21?

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