DES MOINES, Iowa - For those with aspirations to call the White House home, Iowa is a must stop to gain early support. And activists at an influential Republican dinner expected two possible presidential candidates...but they got three.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Texas Senator Ted Cruz - both suspected to be considering a White House bid in 2016 - were scheduled to be the headlining speakers at this year's Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner Saturday. The event, held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, brought out the top Republican officials in the state, including Governor Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Republican candidate for the Senate, Joni Ernst.
But a third potential presidential candidate showed up by surprise: Paul Ryan.
"I remember the last time I was here at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, campaigning with Mitt Romney in 2012," said Ryan. "One thing Mitt and I learned from that campaign...we were up against a candidate selling the idea of big government. President Obama passed most of his program with a Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid Congress in his first two years of his first term. But he delayed implementation of all those things until after the 2012 election. Voters know the reality of big government is much different than the idea."
That belief was shared by Cruz and Jindal, as well. All three politicians echoed the same sentiments: that voters were tired of the Democratic Party, and that Republicans would overtake the Senate in this year's election.
"You think about the damage the president did in his first two years, with a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House," said Jindal. "You look at Obamacare, you look at the Stimulus Act. I don't want him to have that free reign for the next two years. Under Harry Reid, the Senate has become a rubber stamp for this president. You don't see the open debate. You don't see the push-back."
"Republicans are going to re-take the U.S. Senate," Cruz said. "We are going to retire Harry Reid as Majority Leader, and Iowa is going to be critical for that. Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from the State of Iowa."
And perhaps their predictions aren't far off: during the event, the Des Moines Register announced results of its new state poll, putting Joni Ernst in the lead over Democratic opponent Bruce Braley by six points.
"A year ago, who would have thought that a small-town farm girl, who teaches Sunday school and confirmation to seventh and eighth graders, would be six points ahead of an eight-year congressman," Ernst said to the crowd after a standing ovation following Paul Ryan's introduction. "I bet Harry Reid didn't see that coming!"
While Ernst received the most applause from attendants, out of the potential 2016 GOP nominees, support was widespread. If Cruz, Jindal, and Ryan are all planning to run for president in 2016, they couldn't have picked a better time to set foot on Iowa soil.