Judging by the number of Republican politicians that have designs on the White House in 2016 who have decided to visit Iowa this weekend, you’d think the state played a major role in the nomination fight, or something.
Well, it does. And as much as many in the GOP wish that Iowa did not have such an outsized influence on the race, they can’t escape the fact that the Iowa caucuses, for better or worse, are the first test for candidates during the long primary season.
The big draw this weekend in Iowa is the Family Leadership Summit in Ames. Scheduled to speak during the event are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and 2012 candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
In his speech at the summit, Santorum called for GOP outreach to working class voters:
Rick Santorum challenged the Republican Party to “realign” itself to attract working class voters in a speech to Iowa social conservatives here on Saturday.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and the 2012 Iowa caucuses winner, said the party erred in the 2012 presidential race by focusing too much on entrepreneurs and business owners rather than workers. If the party does so again in 2016, he said, the results will be disastrous.
“If you look at the map for president, if we don’t see a realignment of the Republican Party, if we don’t see this party reaching out and bringing in new people, then the demographics don’t look very good for us,” Santorum said.
The answer, he said, is to create new manufacturing jobs in the United States by reducing taxes and regulatory requirements and to build stronger families by encouraging marriage. Republicans can win over working-class voters by proving a commitment to jobs and support for families.
Another key to attracting new voters and ensuring economic success for Americans, Santorum said, is reducing immigration – both legal and illegal. America’s labor market has been “distressed” and wages have been held back because of immigration, he said.
“We need a policy that puts Americans first, an American immigration policy that says no to amnesty, that says yes to securing the border and then says we need to dial back on chain immigration in this country that results in over a million people a year coming here to suppress our labor markets.”
Meanwhile, Rand Paul was in the midst of a 9-city tour of the state:
As Paul blitzed across the Hawkeye State this week, holding events at Iowa GOP offices and campaigning for local candidates, he hardly played coy to the question of whether he was running for President. After all, his nine-city trip marked his fourth visit to the state since the 2012 election.
“I don’t know why Iowa keeps popping up on my calendar, but it seems to be pretty frequent,” he said Monday, clearly with sarcasm.
His itinerary this time included a campaign-style schedule where he continued testing his 2016 message on the road.
From reducing the federal deficit to defending civil liberties and reforming the criminal justice system, Paul mostly stayed on his talking points.
But the trip was not without controversy.
His combative answer to a reporter’s question — combined with video of Paul appearing to avoid an immigration activist — absorbed most of the attention surrounding his visit.
Experts say it’s unlikely those story lines will derail any progress Paul has made in the state with voters, but his comments could underscore questions some Republicans have about his foreign policy, especially as he seeks to broaden his appeal.
And just to liven up this blog post a bit, consider that South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will also be speaking at the Family Leadership Summit. Scott, who is heavily favored in the fall to win a full term following his appointment to the Senate to fill out the term of Jim DeMint, is probably not angling for the top spot.
But how about a Cruz/Scott or Paul/Scott ticket? Even a Bush/Scott pairing sounds sexy. Defanging a major Democratic attack on Republicans — that the GOP is anti-black — makes Scott, at the very least, a valuable ally.
Seventeen months from the Iowa caucuses and it already feels like the campaign is in full swing.