A.J. Spiker has been chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa since February 2012, riding to victory on the strength of his backing from the tea party wing of the GOP. (Spiker was a major back of Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.) Spiker has remained a thorn in the side of the establishment in the party — proudly touting the need to remain true to core principles and highlighting the efforts of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz was in Iowa to speak at a GOP party dinner Friday night so we reached out to Spiker to get his take on the current state of the Republican party — both in Iowa and nationally. Our conversation — conducted via email — is below, edited only for grammar.
FIX: In your speech on Saturday night, you derided the “permanent political class”. Who did you include in that group — and who don’t you?
A.J. Spiker: Ask anyone who has become disenfranchised with politics why they’ve lost interest and you’ll almost always get some variation of, “The two major parties are the same and don’t represent me.” And in some ways they can be right. If taxes go up, jobs are lost, spending increases, freedoms are taken away and the U.S. continues to become tangled in foreign wars, it doesn’t matter which party is in charge. There most certainly is a permanent political class of consultants and established political groups who feed off the status quo. They tell conservative GOP activists not to rock the boat because it threatens their bank accounts and their cushy jobs. I include anyone in this group who values money, power or influence over advancing the principles of the Party.
FIX: What do you say to those who describe the split in the Republican party as between mathematicians, who are focused on the changing demographics in the country and some of the social issues fading among the young, and priests who are focused primarily on faithfulness to core principles. Do you buy that description ? Which side would you put yourself on and why?
A.J.: I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive. The issues that the Republican Party of Iowa has focused on during my term are all issues I see as being favorable to the demographics the GOP must go after and win. A commitment to decreasing spending while lowering the taxes of hardworking folks, preventing unnecessary costly wars, creating good paying jobs, stopping government spying, respect for the value of life… are issues that traditional Republicans adhere to. They are also issues that the growing voting demographics like young people, Latinos and independents place a high value on. To the contrary I believe it’s the freedom-minded individuals in the party that are putting forth the policies that can lead to GOP electoral victory. If the Republican Party stood fast to the values in its platform, it would have greater success.
FIX: What do you say to people — including many Republicans — who say that the Iowa caucuses are becoming less revenant because the party has picked Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in the last two elections? Is Iowa still a representative sample of Republicans nationally? If so, why didn’t Huckabee or Santorum wind up as the nominee?
A.J.: The last two presidents were Iowa Caucus success stories, anyone can compete and win in Iowa. Seven potential 2016 GOP presidential nomination candidates (Cruz, Huckabee, [Sarah] Palin, [Mike] Lee, [Paul] Ryan, [Rick] Perry and [Scott] Brown) will be in Iowa between our Reagan Dinner on Oct 25th and the end of November, Iowans continue to welcome and vet potential candidates. Both Huckaee and Santorum were quite competitive in 2008 and 2012 respectably but ultimately lacked the staying power. While they may not have won the nomination of the Party, they put together a solid organization that raised money and used Iowa as a springboard to a national campaign effort. Iowa’s top 3 in 2012 are solid proof that the state is very representative of Republican political leanings nationally: Santorum 24.6%, Romney 24.6% and Paul 21.5%. Let’s not forget the last Republican to win the Iowa Caucuses and become the nominee of our Party became the 43rd President of the United States.
FIX: Who is the buzziest candidate or candidates in Iowa Republican circles right now?
A.J.: Based on the buzz I’m hearing, potential candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are getting quite a lot of attention. Republicans and independents find it refreshing to hear from elected officials who very clearly stand for something and don’t back down from their principles.
FIX: Finish this sentence: In 2016, the single most important trait a Republican candidate needs to win Iowa is _________________.
A.J.: A capable campaign structure and a plan that gets Americans back to work.