One of the easiest applause lines for a Republican politician these days is to accuse the national news media of focusing too much on the divisions and disagreements in the Grand Old Party. But it was impossible to miss the signs of discord Friday night at a Republican Party fundraiser in Des Moines.
About 600 people attended the Reagan Dinner and heard from top state party leaders, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the keynote speaker, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). We wrote about Cruz's comments over the weekend, but three other speeches Friday night illustrate the growing GOP divide and are worth noting today.
The situation in Iowa is not much different than the Republican soul-searching under way in other states and among GOP lawmakers in Washington. We recommend you read this story by our friends at the Associated Press, who deftly explain the situation, but here's a brief synopsis:
The state party is led by A.J. Spiker, once a supporter of the presidential campaigns of former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who started working with other "Paulites" at the precinct level in 2012 to seize control of the state GOP committee and chairmanship and begin packing the party leadership positions with libertarian- or tea party-inspired activists. This group successfully wrestled party control away from allies of Branstad, who believe that the party needs to focus on recruiting, nominating and electing more mainstream GOP candidates who can bridge the divide between economic conservatives and the state's robust population of evangelical voters.
During the dinner, with C-SPAN cameras airing the speeches nationwide, Spiker and his co-chairman, David Fischer, praised Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and singled out "establishment" Republicans for standing in their way. A few minutes later, Branstad praised Cruz as an "up and coming" senator, but focused instead on the recent records of Republican Govs. Rick Perry (Tex.) John Kasich (Ohio) and Scott Walker (Wis.).
Here's a sampling of what was said:
David Fischer, Iowa GOP co-chairman:
“Our Republican Party is in transition. I’m really proud that at our big spring event we were able to bring Sen. Rand Paul in to Cedar Rapids fresh off his historic filibuster of the outrageous notion that the American government can use its drones to kill American citizens on American soil. And here tonight we’re proud at our big fall event to be bringing you Sen. Ted Cruz, fresh off of his historic filibuster of the outrageous notion that government can take over medicine, take over health-care, increase the price of your health insurance or force you to buy a product that you do not want from a Web site that does not work.
“There are some of the old guard in the Grand Old Party that frankly don’t approve of the kind of principled leadership being shown by the new conservative leaders, like Sens. [Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah)]. And some Republicans have even gone so far as to call them names. Well I have a name for these principled new leaders, too. I call them the future."
A.J. Spiker, Iowa GOP chairman:
"Tonight I’d like to share with you one thing that for the permanent political establishment is the dirtiest word you can utter, and that word is ‘principle.’ We live in a country today where the federal government has principles that extend only so far as they can threaten people to comply with them. We have a federal government today that takes three years to implement a mandated insurance law and then spends hundreds of millions of dollars on a Web site that doesn’t work. We have a federal government today who thinks that the word principle means that during the recent government shutdown, they should devote resources to depriving veterans of visiting war memorials formed in their honor."
"Since I was first elected in 2012 and reelected this year, I believe that I’ve been abundantly clear that we will continue to stand as a party that stands on the values of the platform. We’re often told by the political establishment that we shouldn’t take stances on issues because it might hurt in an election year or two or four years down the road. We’re told that we should water down the message to try to win elections and then we wonder why candidates with a watered-down message lose those elections. We’re told by independents and those who have become distrustful and uninterested in politics that the two political parties are one in the same and that the parties no longer seem different or stand for anything. As I stand in front of you tonight, I can tell you that as long as I’m chairman, that will not be the case in the state of Iowa."
Gov. Terry Brandstad:
"I want to do all I can to help to bring all Republicans together and I want you to know this is the Ronald Reagan Dinner and I was one of the early supporters of Ronald Reagan for president way back in 1976. And we need to get that spirit that Reagan brought to Republicans, and he taught us the 11th Commandment – speak no ill of other Republicans. We need to be united as a party and we need to get our message across to the people of this great country. We know that President Obama and his friends in the media are going to do everything they can to try to divide us and try to demonize us. We’ve seen this strategy before, but I want you to know that as we prepare for 2014, we’re going to be the champions of limited government."
“Americans should have leadership like we have with Republican governors in states all across this country. And one of the great ones is the state of Texas, where Sen. Cruz is from. As governor, Rick Perry has led the way – 274,000 new jobs in the last 12 months. Twelve percent of all jobs in the whole nation in the state of Texas. Even TIME Magazine – front-page picture of Texas saying how Texas with its low taxes and low regulations is what America needs to be and how Texas is gaining jobs while California, New York and Illinois are losing jobs in droves. Between 2002 and 2011, Texas created one-third of the nation’s high-paying jobs. Think of that."
Watch C-SPAN video of the Spiker, Fischer, Branstad and Cruz speeches here:
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