imageThe campaign season for the Iowa Caucus feels like it finally arrived this week.  Monday was insane with six prospective candidates coming into Central Iowa.  Living in Des Moines can be a blessing or a curse depending on your prospective with the possibility of tripping over presidential candidates and to have our hotels overrun with national media.

On Monday I blogged from the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s spring event… we were able to hear from Former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.  We also saw Texas Congressman Ron Paul come into town for The FAMiLY Leader’s presidential lecture series.

Reflecting back on Monday I would say four of the prospective candidates who came to Iowa had a great start, two of the candidates not so much.

  • Rick Santorum – I think he gave the best speech at the Iowa Faith & Family Coalition event.  He has become a regular fixture in Iowa and is a known commodity.  He emphasized his social conservative record in Iowa and he also touched on a broader range of issues as well.  Prior to Monday’s event he has spent a lot of time in Iowa and has made some great hires with the Concordia Group.  If Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee sit out in 2012 I would say he has incredible potential to win the Iowa Caucus.  Regardless, he will be a strong contender and has positive momentum moving forward.
  • Herman Cain gave a great introduction on Monday.  He’s also been traveling the state and has movement with the grassroots, in particular, those affiliated with the Tea Party.  He is still unknown to most Iowans, but gained some ground on Monday.  He is an intriguing candidate who play well here. He is also incredibly likeable and accessible.  As we go forward I believe Iowans will need to see more depth in his policy positions, but he made a great splash.
  • Tim Pawlenty gave a solid speech and Iowans are becoming more familiar with him.  He is incredibly personable and I believe relates well to Iowans.  The biggest news this week is his winning the support of Eric Woolson who was a key player with the Huckabee campaign in 2008 and most recently managed Bob Vander Plaats’ unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.
  • Newt Gingrich will most definitely be the policy wonk in the race.  His appearance on Monday was a net gain, but I don’t believe that the connected as well with the activists present as Santorum, Cain, and Pawlenty did.  As a former pastor I appreciated his appeal to foundational, universal truth.  Having heard him speak before I know he understands how relativism that is currently espoused in our culture has led to moral decay.  He is also solid on his understanding of our founding.  What he will have to overcome however is a rocky personal history and find a way to connect with everyday Iowans.

Those who didn’t get off to the best start, in my humble opinion are…

  • Buddy Roemer – on Monday I thought he gave a pretty decent speech, but reflecting further on it I believe he did himself more harm than good.  The only thing that I really can say I came away with listening to his speech is that he likes Ronald Reagan and he has a network marketing plan for fundraising.  Not incredibly inspiring.  I consider his speech to be a missed opportunity.
  • Ron Paul – Namely because his stumble at The FAMiLY Leader event, even with clarifying his position on marriage I don’t believe he is going to make serious headway with social conservatives.  The second problem is that he missed out not being at the Iowa Faith & Freedom event.  This event was announced long before the lecture series was announced.  In Pella there were not even 200 people present.  He missed out on speaking before 1700 activists along with national and international media coverage that came with the event.  I’m not exactly sure what The FAMiLY Leader was doing planning their event on the same day, but they didn’t do Congressman Paul any favors.  Perhaps he could have done both, and if there was that possibility he should have taken it.

Those who weren’t present.  This was a missed opportunity.  I know there are likely good reasons for Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin not to come seeing their colleagues Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have their Fox News contracts suspended.  I also know that Palin has a busy schedule this month.  I frankly, when this event was announced, didn’t expect either one to be there this early.  Even so, it was a missed opportunity.  Both have the ability to get into this race later than some of the others and if they do they will both make an immediate impact, but how late is too late?  Huckabee already lost key personnel in Woolson and his timeframe was one of the reasons given.  The Iowa Caucus is a grassroots game – the earlier you get in the better.  I have said that if both are serious they need to participate in Ames Straw Poll and to have a credible presence there they need to decide fairly soon, but it didn’t need to made like yesterday as some seem to indicate.

Also Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour missed out.  He is speaking at the Iowa GOP’s Chairman’s Dinner next week in Davenport and to Congressman Steve King’s Conservative Principles Conference later this month.  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann missed this event but she also will be participating in Steve King’s Conservative Principles Conference (along with Santorum, and Cain) later this month.  Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels probably isn’t going to bother since he seems to be doubling down on his social issues truce rhetoric.  He has zero chance of doing well in Iowa toeing that line.  I also believe that Mitt Romney will not spend much time or money in Iowa not wanting to repeat his 2008 embarrassment here.

It’s going to be an interesting next few months.

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