Look, I get it. You may think, what the heck? We just finished the 2012 election. You’re not ready to talk about 2016. I hear you. But posturing, positioning, poking…it’s all underway. Iowa’s caucuses always come under fire every 4 years as to whether the state deserves to remain first-in-the-nation. Maybe that will flare up again for 2016 in a serious way. Maybe it won’t. Former Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn may have screwed up by jumping out too soon during caucus night 2012 to announce Mitt Romney won when he had to later admit, no, Rick Santorum did. It embarrassed himself and embarrassed the state. But, one of his biggest accomplishments that may get overlooked is that he worked hard to make sure Iowa went first last cycle and helped to pave the way to keep Iowa first in 2016. The state faced one of its toughest battles ever to stay first. And Strawn’s work helped to make sure of that.
Other states know that. And obviously potential 2016 presidential candidates do, too. I know of at least three possible candidates with Iowa travel plans.
Tuesday morning, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker announced on WHO radio talk show host’s Jan Mickelson’s show that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will headline the party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids on May 10th. Paul’s received a lot of attention recently with his old-fashioned 13-hour filibuster on the senate floor on the White House’s policy on drones and he won the CPAC unofficial straw poll in D.C. last weekend. Paul’s a hot name right now in the 2016 field, no doubt. I’ll be curious of the reaction for the Paul invite that will follow, though. Some think the Paul crowd in Iowa has already taken over the Republican’s state central committee and key party infrastructure. Critics argue they care more about continuing the Ron Paul agenda/legacy than growing the party, winning elections, etc. But their defenders argue that they could, in fact, be growing the party, by reaching out to the libertarians, which could be appealing to younger voters (who may collectively care more about fiscal issues/opportunity/debt than social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion). And Rand Paul could be a man who could carry that message.
2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum isn’t leaving Iowa behind. Santorum’s Patriot Voices organization keeps him in the news and on the guest lists across the country. He is the national spokesman for the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City led by Kim Lehman, the former Republican National Committeewoman and Santorum 2012 backer. Santorum will headline a luncheon for the Give Cures Lunch April 15th in Des Moines.
Wisconsin’s Scott Walker tried to weaken some of the power of the unions in his state, which drew the love from Republicans. He also survived the unions’ revenge in their unsuccessful recall effort. Walker hasn’t ruled out a 2016 presidential bid. He will headline the Polk County GOP’s annual Robb Kelley Club Spring Dinner. That takes place Thursday, May 23rd in West Des Moines. Walker may not be as well-known in Iowa as the other two men. But he’s a new face getting newfound national attention.
Three men in two months in one state. Hello, 2016.