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Are You Ready For The 2012 Caucus?

Are You Ready For The 2012 Caucus?

Caucus Locator Service

First of all, if you live in Iowa and don’t know for sure where your caucus site is located, you’ll want to click this link to find it.  If you still can’t figure it out (don’t be ashamed… it can be challenging) we want to help.  Please email us at [email protected].  Please include your name, email address and home address (I promise we will not keep this information for any reason).  We will reply as quickly as possible with your caucus location.

Candidates for President

If you haven’t yet taken a look at the candidates, there any number of resources available to do so.  I think it is a good idea, more than anything, to look at the candidates’ web sites and see what they have to say for themselves there.  Here are the links to those sites:

Michele Bachmann

Herman Cain (included because he is still listed as a candidate officially)

Newt Gingrich

Jon Huntsman

Ron Paul

Rick Perry

Buddy Roemer

Mitt Romney

Rick Santorum

Other Caucus Information

The Iowa Caucus is often looked upon, along with the New Hampshire Primary, as a bell-weather for the entire Presidential Nominating Process.  Some very important points:

  • The Iowa Caucus occurs every two years.
  • The purpose of the Iowa Caucus is to discuss and decide on components of the party platform, elect convention delegates to the County Convention, elect representatives to the County Central Committees, and during the year of a Presidential Election to poll party members on their preferences for the party’s candidate for President.
  • This is a party activity and only members of the party that are residents of the precinct may participate at a precinct caucus, although others may be granted opportunity to speak by the Chair.
  • Any resident of the caucus precinct can register to become a party member at the caucus event.
  • The caucus meeting is governed by Robert’s Rules of Order.

The following are some additional details provided by the Iowa GOP:

Below is a detailed overview of what will happen at 1,774 precincts in the state of Iowa on caucus night, January 3, 2012.

  • All caucus participants arrive at their precincts where they will sign in at the door upon arrival.  Caucuses will begin at 7:00PM CT.
  • The caucus meetings begin with the pledge of allegiance.  A caucus chair and secretary will be elected by the body to run the meeting and take notes.
  • After the chair and secretary are elected, candidate representatives from each campaign are given time to speak on behalf of their candidate.
  • Once the speakers have finished, sheets of paper are be passed out to every registered Iowa Republican from the precinct. Voters then write down their candidate preference.
  • All votes are then collected.
  • Every vote is counted.  The caucus chair and secretary will count the votes in front of the caucus and a representative from each campaign is allowed to observe the counting of the votes. The results are recorded on an official form provided by the Republican Party of Iowa and are announced to the caucus.
  • A caucus reporter is chosen to report the results to the Republican Party of Iowa, accompanied by campaign representatives to verify the results reported to Iowa GOP officials.
  • RPI officials do not count results; they aggregate them from around the state and report them to the media.  To ensure consistency in reporting, campaign representatives have the opportunity to be present with RPI officials as votes are reported to the public.
  • We will be reporting the votes for Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, “No Preference,” and “Other.”
  • “No Preference” votes include those who vote “present,” “no preference, “uncommitted,” or “none of the above.”
  • Within fourteen days of the caucus, certified results will be released for a complete breakdown of all caucus votes that were cast by precinct.
  • After the Presidential preference poll is completed the caucus will elect precinct committee representatives; delegates, alternates, and junior delegates to the county convention; and discuss and submit platform resolutions for consideration at the county convention.

For any other questions or inquiries please contact Nicole Sizemore at [email protected] or at 515-868-2507.

Are You Ready For The 2012 Caucus?

Observations on the August 11th Iowa GOP/Fox News Presidential Debate

Courtesy of State Central Committee member Gopal Krishna, my wife and I had great 8th row seats for the Iowa GOP/Fox News Presidential Debate.
The debate included: Speaker Gingrich; Governors: Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney; Senator Santorum, Representatives Bachmann and Paul; and businessman Herman Cain.

I’m writing this post on Sunday morning, August 14th.  I intended to write it before the Straw Poll, but I didn’t get it done.  My observations will include some thoughts about the Straw Poll, although I was not able to attend it in person.  I don’t believe in titling people as “winners” or “losers” so I will define my analysis in terms of my personal expectations.

Exceeded Expectations: 

Governor Romney – Mitt Romney spoke powerfully and articulately on every opportunity.  I was particularly impressed with his handling of the “gotcha” question about the Bain Capital investments in businesses that later failed and lost jobs.  His answers on Romneycare are consistent with what can be expected of a Republican governor in a liberal state.  I believe the 10th Amendment has meaning, so I respect his answer.   He did not compete in the Straw Poll.

Senator Santorum – Rick Santorum sprinted from anonymity to relevance with his precise, powerful responses on his legislative achievements related to welfare reform and middle east foreign policy.  For me, his clash with Ron Paul made me consider again the Congressman’s views on foreign policy.  His debate performance helped him to 4th place in the Straw Poll.

Met Expectations:

Speaker Gingrich – Newt Gingrich had a great start when he criticized Chris Wallace for asking “gotcha” questions. The crowd was 100% with him.  Unfortunately, he finished weakly with an oddly placed plea for citizens to contact their representatives now because we can’t wait until 2012’s election for leadership.

Representative Bachmann – Michele Bachmann had an overall good night.  I thought she had the most difficult of the “gotcha” questions when she was asked if she would be submissive to her husband as President.  She showed great control over her emotions.  She came across as thoughtful and confident in her responses.  I thought she relied too much on lines from her scripted stump speech.  She is the Iowa leader coming into the debate and I thought she held her own, as confirmed by her 1st place showing in the Straw Poll.

Failed to Meet Expectations:

Representative Paul – Ron Paul should be in my wheelhouse.  I have strong Libertarian leanings in my political ideology.  I thought he made a mistake engaging in the cat fight with Senator Santorum.  He came across as a little shrill in his efforts to defend Iran and criticize past U.S. foreign policy.   I imagine President Obama was nodding in agreement.  Most of all, I don’t understand why he does not ask his ardent supporters to show respect and refrain from aggravating the many people who attended the debate to hear candidates, not activists.  Of course, he nearly won the Staw Poll, but I’m skeptical that his national polling numbers will improve based on the debate.

Herman Cain – Herman Cain should also be in my wheelhouse.  I believe strongly in capitalism as the engine of prosperity for America and the world.  Herman’s strength is his ability to provide short understandable answers to complex questions.  He has not moved quickly enough from process to solutions. I thought he performed at about the same level as the South Carolina debate, but that is not good enough at this point.

Governor Pawlenty – Tim Pawlenty looked petty in the way he engaged Representative Bachmann.  I realize that some of this was driven by the questions, but he would have been well served to remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment.   Given the time and effort he has put into his Iowa effort, his % of the vote in the Straw Poll confirms that he did not meet expectations in this debate. He had the organization, but he did not have the committed voters like Bachmann and Paul.   I understand now why McCain did not pick him as his VP in 2008.

Editorial Note: My comments were finished before Governor Pawlenty dropped out.

Governor Huntsman – Jon Huntsman is a Republican.  I don’t understand why Dick Morris keeps saying he should run in the Democrat Party.   I appreciate his willingness to stick with positions that he knows are unpopular with a meaningful segment of the Republican base.  That takes character and integrity.  I think he has those qualities. I thought his demeanor lacked sparkle and emotion.  His responses were not crisp.  He has not spent much time in Iowa so the Staw Poll doesn’t mean much for his candidacy.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that I would be willing to work hard and support any of these candidates, Rick Perry or Sarah Palin should they win the Republican nomination for President.  Each of them would be a far better President than Barack Obama, who has turned out to be the most partisan, divisive President of my lifetime.



Are You Ready For The 2012 Caucus?

August 11 2011 GOP Presidential Debate

This piece was written by Justin Arnold, editor of The Conservative Reader: Iowa, and Art Smith, Publisher of The Conservative Reader.

Last night’s GOP candidate debate was more interesting than we expected, and if you watched it, you definitely got a clear picture of how some of the candidates think.  How much you got to know some candidates depended on the questions asked of them.  For instance, Newt Gingrich got a question about his staff departures that just seemed completely out of scope and uninteresting (the segment was titled “Candidate Vulnerabilities”, which just seems like more of a talking head topic than a debate topic).  There was a lot of fire fanned between Bachmann and Pawlenty by the media panel, almost completely derailing one segment of the debate.  One question focused on what the candidates thought about other candidates not present.  Ho-hum.

While some people might have found non-policy questions interesting, and how a candidate reacts to any number of situations is certainly valuable information, it just seemed like a waste of the audience’s time to ask so many questions that aren’t of fundamental importance.  While some members of the press like to hear themselves talk about these topics, and also hate to ask the same “boring” questions, these are the questions that really matter: What are you going to do about the economy, terrorism, an over-stretched military, an over-stretched government, abortion, marriage, etc.  Asking the two Minnesotans to beat up on each other just smacks of media trying to create news instead of reporting on it.

Understand this is simply an assessment of last night’s debate and not our preference of candidates or an endorsement of any candidate.  In declining order of how we think they impacted their campaign’s standing (worst first, that is) here’s our assessment of each of the candidates from last night:

8: Herman Cain (Justin)

In this race’s early stages Cain’s candidacy created some major sparks following the first Fox debate in South Carolina.  Months later, and now on the eve of the rubber meeting the road, it seems time to call him what he is—a smart, likable, charismatic man, with a good story who has not developed into a major-league candidate.  Alone he may wow but, after his splashes fade, standing amongst his competitors while they talk about their battle scars and their experiences in office while not having any of his own is simply killing him.

In other words, the concept of a firebrand business man completely unstained by professional politics is great conceptually, but as the seriousness level raises just works to make people hesitant.   He certainly does nothing to quell these hesitations by continually displaying no discipline and getting in the middle of a bunch of silly, peripheral talk about Muslims and Islam.

The fact that he doesn’t really have specific proposals or thoughts not also held by many of the other candidates in the race leaves him with no distinction, no experience, and frankly no chance.

7: Ron Paul (Justin)

The award for understatement of the night went to Ron Paul, who while responding to a question if he was worried about Rick Perry getting into the race said it didn’t bother him because “I feel like I am sort of separated from the other candidates.”  Especially considering this performance, absolutely no one can dispute this fact.

He at least doubled his apparent quota of at least one outrageous answer per debate, spending much of his air time arguing that Iran is not a threat to the United States and hence should not be stopped from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  He then upped the ante by claiming our government has no right to label anyone a terrorist and, by extension, has no right to do anything about it.  For some reason he chose this evening as forum for further focusing on his position that in America basically no one should have the ability to pass moral judgment on anything.

Aside from the substantive problems created by this, politically there is simply no way that around 30% of his message will ever be accepted by a broad electorate in 2012, be it inside the Republican Party or in a general election.  He is not a proficient debater to begin with, and his refusal to at least somewhat take the edge off of his message in nationally televised debates leaves him always able to inspire his wildly committed devotees, but without the ability to ever broaden his base of support.  You don’t have to be a political science professor to see where this leads.

(Additional comment from Art): If you agree with all of Ron Paul’s positions, you would have been enamored by his performance last night.  Otherwise, you would have seen him just taking on enough rope to hang himself.  I agree with Justin, that there is zero possibility that Paul will garner enough support to ever be the Republican nominee.

6: Jon Huntsman (Justin)

In his first appearance, Jon Huntsman took to the stage with very high expectations in some quarters.  Though giving a solid performance it is hard to imagine anyone thinking he met any kind of elevated standard.

On a night that saw some tough talk on border security and illegal immigration Huntsman surprisingly came off as the toughest of them all.  By dodging a question he revealed he would support broadly granting citizenship, but only after the border was truly sealed.  It is worth noting that, at this point in the illegal immigration debate, clearly this is the most aggressive outcome doable on this issue.  Nobody is rounding up millions of people—the most hardliners will ever get is locked down borders and possibly a 14th Amendment “anchor baby” re-write in exchange for amnesty.

In addition to immigration other bold stands he took were offering a big, and certainly a brave, pat on the back to House Speaker John Boehner for his debt ceiling deal, and an absolute lambasting of the E.P.A (which included a “reign of terror” reference).

He deflected his ties to Obama and China relatively well but gave a squeamish and confusing answer on why he supports civil-unions and why those who don’t have taken the wrong position.  Going forward he must learn that to take a position on something means that you are also taking a position against the opposite— and you need to be able to articulate this opposition.

Overall this debut showed potential, and that he clearly has a much higher ceiling than candidates like Herman Cain and other second tier dwellers do.  Approaching that ceiling, however, will mean making the strides as a candidate that Cain has failed to make.

5: Tim Pawlenty (Art)

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has come a long way since I first met him in 2008 when he came to Des Moines to speak at a very sparsely attended political fundraiser.  My impression of him from that event, which was of a low-key speaker (he had been thought by some to be John McCain’s pick for VP only to be outdone by Palin) was probably driven more from the setting than his presentation.   In 2010, he was a rising star, entering the stage of a revived state GOP event with a splash of conviction and humor, only to become a generic sideshow, at least in Iowa, in the midst of extremely passionate fans of Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.

Pawlenty answered most of his questions with limited energy… his most interesting moments came in the back-and-forth with Michele Bachmann.  Even in the midst of those exchanges, however, he showed an ability to differentiate himself only from Bachmann.

Pawlenty’s message was essentially conservative, and in most cases was clear and succinct.  His position on abortion, his examples of how he managed state government, were all well presented, but did not separate him much from others.  Even his ability to take responsibility for bad policies, such as where he clearly stated his regret for the “cigarette fee” that he signed, has become more common amongst politicians… and he still flubbed that by tossing out the fact that the Minnesota Supreme Court had favored the use of the term “fee” even though most looked at it as a tax.

Tim needed to come out swinging on everything, not just Bachmann.  Instead, he continued to look like a bland alternative, even though he may talk a good game.

4: Rick Santorum (Art)

In the first segment of the debate, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were not given as much time as other candidates.  This trend might have continued throughout the event had Santorum not started making a fuss… it seemed that a number of the questions were directed to candidates based on things they had said in the past.

What placed Rick above Jon, and Tim as well, was the fact that he made a much better use of the time he was allotted than the others, eventually using the same tactics as Ron Paul to just ignore the clock and stretch the time out, eventually taking on Ron Paul regarding Paul’s preference for military isolationism, careless use of the 10th Amendment (and Bachmann’s apparent desire to ignore that same amendment), and the rights of the unborn.  One of his best statements was when he said that States do not have the right to trample individual rights just because of the 10th Amendment.

Rick made strong cases for his commitment to  marriage, having spent a good deal of time campaigning against the retention of 3 Iowa Supreme Court Justices in 2010, and life, most clearly articulating the need to not make one act of violence (rape) worse by committing another on an innocent victim (the unborn child resulting from rape).

Rick’s energy, strong understanding of the need to stop Iran from manufacturing nuclear weapons, and protecting our interests throughout the world, helped round out a strong performance.  However, whether because of the format, or his own presentation, he still looked like he was scrapping for attention… it may benefit him to have done so at some point, but did not help him rise any higher in our assessment.

3: Newt Gingrich (Art)

Newt has struggled to make progress in gaining traction with supporters and especially Iowans, to some extent because of the missteps of his initial campaign activities.  One of the best things about Newt is that he is always direct in his statements, but one of the biggest challenges he has is that he is always direct in his statements.  He handled the initial question on the Paul Ryan budget plan and follow-up spin on his comments poorly, even if he was correct in his assessment.  Newt Gingrich is a great leader and politician, but struggles to be a great candidate.

Last night’s debate was a demonstration of Newt’s candor and comfort with talking about politics.  Some thought otherwise, but the question from Wallace about Newt’s early campaign team departures was so useless that it got a strong negative reaction from the audience.  Newt’s response was right on target: let’s talk about the issues.  The audience loved it (many tend to think poorly of the press, especially when they chase lines of questions that are off-topic).  Later, another question that sounded more relevant got another biting reply from Newt.  Although Newt’s response was again accurate, his approach was not sufficient to give the audience a clear understanding of his point (he should have answered instead of arguing… he still could have clarified that the question was posed well out of context).

Gingrich’s comments on monetary policy, especially about the secrecy of the Fed and need for an audit of the same, was on target.

Newt and Mitt Romney were the only ones on the stage who seemed to come across as “presidential”, in our opinion.  Purely on content and poise, Gingrich should have been the winner of the debate.  However, dealing with those two questions did take away from a smooth appearance, and while hitting the right answers, Newt still struggles with communicating his reasoned answers at a less professorial level, and as a result what he says becomes less memorable and even confusing to some.

2: Michele Bachmann (Art)

Much to the chagrin of many conservatives, there was only one woman on the stage last night, and it wasn’t Sarah Palin (as an aside, fully one-third of the “Caucus Insider” stories today at the Des Moines Register’s 2012 Iowa Caucuses page were about Palin).  However, the woman there last night definitely had a lot more grit than the former Vice Presidential candidate from Alaska.

Bachmann was a force to be reckoned with and had the most to lose last night.  Her biggest failing was allowing herself to be drawn into a Minnesotan debate with Pawlenty for an extended period.   Neither of them should have let it go on so long, but it is always hard to let go in these settings.

Bachmann struggled to explain her vote on the very cigarette tax bill that she criticized Pawlenty for signing.  She managed to explain that the bill, which she said Pawlenty had helped fashion, put the question of a cigarette tax and protection of the unborn against each other and forced her to vote for a bill she would have normally voted against because the life issue trumped taxes.  Somehow, Pawlenty tried to make it sound like the bill was pro-abortion and that somehow Bachmann is confused and voted for two bad things at once, but I have not found the bill to check it on this point.  I suspect Pawlenty was confused.

Bachmann overall made a very strong showing, argued well and focused with conviction on the issues that have been key parts of her message: fix our fiscal house, fix our economy, repeal Obama-care, protect the unborn, protect the institution of Marriage.  Her answer to the incredibly dumb question about submission to her spouse was excellent.  Her main challenge is reducing the level of shrillness in her voice, which may be difficult, but it tends to be difficult to hear the difference between a normal tone and a strong emphasis when she speaks.

1: Mitt Romney (Justin)

One can’t help but feel that while others surge forward or get buzz for possibly getting in the race, what is really happening is that Romney is tightening his grip on this thing.  Beyond again showing that he effortlessly slips off punches and has settled on an effective answer defending Romneycare, he has the discipline (i.e. wisdom) that makes it hard to fathom him losing a lead.

He comes off cool under the pressure of the debate’s themselves and in handling the attacks that he is often subject to during them.  Not only do these performances prove that the moment is not too big for him, they really reveal him as the most reasonable potential president to main stream Republicans and Independents.  No matter the validity of some of these candidates’ positions, the flat out truth is that droves of middle of the road Independents and traditional Republicans are not going to vote for Ron Paul, or even quite possibly Michelle Bachmann.

Much of his air time, which ended up not being substantial, was taken repeating his theme that Obama does not know how to get the economy moving again.  He didn’t get stuck talking about health care very long, but when he did he repeated his pledge to grant all 50 states waivers from Obamacare on his first day in office.  He was insistent that there needs to be a crackdown on employers who hire illegal aliens, said he would run a Federal government that doesn’t spend more than it takes in, and had a brilliant answer as to why the marriage issue should be decided at the Federal level.

With the most money, the broadest general election appeal, and the most discipline of any of the candidates, it really is becoming hard not to see a clear path to victory for Romney.  One of the only things that could do him in, besides Perry really being the second coming, is having some crazy personal skeleton suddenly roll out of his closet…oh yeah, never mind—he is Mitt Romney.

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