Iowa Gov. Branstad Fights to Control State GOP

Monday, 20 Jan 2014 07:20 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The presidential caucuses are still two years away, but Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is leading others in a push to control the party in the state before the caucuses begin.

The governor and other state Republicans are worried that with their party being run by supporters of former libertarian U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, it isn't up to picking a Republican candidate that can go on to win the nomination, The Washington Post reports.

Republicans are also concerned that the divisions in the state party could affect the GOP's chances this year of taking the U.S. Senate.

The Iowa fight is similar to those in Arizona, Nevada, and other states, where non-traditional Republicans took control of seats in 2008 and 2010. Traditional Republicans, such as Branstad and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, are fighting back but facing difficulty in regaining control of the party.

Iowa's divisions are causing problems with Republican financing, and accounts have dwindled under Chairman A.J. Spiker's direction. At the end of November, the party had about $260,000 in its coffers, a dip from $295,000 at the beginning of 2013. Meanwhile, the party raised just under $600,000 between the beginning of the year and the end of November, or less than half what Democrats raised.

Despite the divisions, Branstad is expected to win a sixth term in office this fall, and has been urging voters to attend state caucuses, even though it's an off-year. His allies say the push is less about Branstad's own political fortune than about Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is selected during a party convention.

Reynolds four years ago was challenged by a top conservative activist, and Branstad said attracting traditional Republicans to the caucuses could slow challenges to Reynolds when she is nominated once again this year. Further, her election could pave the way for her to run in four years to become Iowa's first female governor.

Expanding the caucus turnout will affect presidential candidates in two years. Delegates picked head to conventions on the county, district, and state levels, and when it's a presidential election year, to the Republican National Convention.

In 2012, the people most dedicated to attending the caucuses were Paul supporters, and the Libertarian won 22 of Iowa's 28 delegates at the Republican convention that year, compared to six for nomination winner Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, county party groups in Iowa are pushing for Spiker to resign, while Branstad has turned the campaign's attention to the caucuses.

Iowa has an open U.S. Senate seat and two open House districts, so the party division could also affect those elections. Several candidates are vying to face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley for a Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Several Republicans are also vying to replace retiring Rep. Tom Latham and Braley in the House, and worry that the party divisions could hinder their chances.

"It could be better. No one hides that there's some tension in the state party," said Rep. Walt Rogers, one of four Republicans running for Braley's seat.

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