imageThe makeup of the Night of the Rising Stars hosted by the Iowa GOP on Saturday night was different than the last time they hosted it two years ago.  There were more “rising stars” to celebrate than in 2009.  There were also fewer in attendance than the last time.  The official count was 500, but it seemed well below that.

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) introduced the freshman class of state Senators.  He noted if it were not for a total of 71 votes in a couple of close races “we would have ended Mike Gronstal’s reign.”  The Iowa Senate has 10 Republican freshman senators and they flipped six seats from Democrats.

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) noted that their 22 new freshman have been “hazed quite a bit” as she reflected on the Republicans now holding a 60 seat majority.  She remarked, “when you sent us these new freshman, you didn’t just send us more votes, you sent us rock stars.”  She also mentioned that every new member has had the opportunity to floor manage a bill that has been passed out of the House to go on to the Senate.  She specifically mentioned State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs) who floor managed the late term abortion ban that passed on Thursday, and State Representative Ron Jorgenson (R-Sioux City) who floor managed the collective bargaining bill that passed in the House (it didn’t survive the Senate funnel).

State Auditor David Vaudt said that he was the only Republican on the executive council in 2003.  Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey joined in 2007.  They were joined by Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and Governor Terry Branstad.  Schultz during his speech said that he was “going to keep up the fight (for Photo ID),”  Taking a swipe at the media he noted that some members of the media have called him unethical in this quest have people show photo ID when they vote.  He said, "I’m doing what I said I’d do.”

Governor Terry Branstad was introduced and said that his primary mission was to get the state’s finances in order.  He also demanded a biennial budget out of the Legislature pledging to veto any one year budget that is sent to his desk.  He said he’s also focused on jobs and he’s been hearing from citizens during his administration’s jobs tour that they need to reduce the regulatory burden for businesses, as well as reduce the tax burden.

Matt Strawn, Iowa GOP chairman,  speaking of Branstad said, “We have a Governor who is letting companies know that Iowa is back open for business.”  He also said that Iowa has a House committed to stopping an abortionist from setting up shop in Western Iowa.  Speaking of Iowa Republicans recent victories in November he noted that was accomplished by running on “conservative, principled solutions.”  Looking forward to 2012, he said that Republicans have 582 days where they can say to Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s “services are no longer needed.”

Senator Chuck Grassley introduced the keynote speaker, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).  He said of Paul that he “believes in putting the Constitution first ahead of anything else.”  He also noted that Paul “so far is not as famous as his dad, but one of these days I bet he will be.”

Senator Paul took to the stage and complimenting Senator Grassley said, “You know he cares about Iowa, he cares about the people of Iowa, and there is nothing false or disingenuous about him.”  He talked about getting to use the famous Senator from Kentucky, Henry Clay’s desk.  He was reminded that Clay was known as the “Great Compromiser” for brokering compromises that kept the Union together.  He said, we laud compromising, but “do we ever consider what we are compromising about?”  He said Clay compromised on slavery, “Was it ever morally acceptable for one man to own another man?”

He said that he had a cousin, famous abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, who did not compromise.  He said he took no prisoners.  Paul said, "“We need more people in Washington who will lead instead of follow.”  He said we have a President who has abdicated his leadership.

He also said that we are facing a day of moral reckoning, “Can a civilization long endure that doesn’t respect life?” Will we be judged for that?”  He also noted that we are facing a fiscal day of reckoning where we will no longer be able to pay our bills, and because of the tragedy in Japan he thinks it will come even sooner than anticipated.  He said we must cut our spending and we must address our national debt.  He stated that his constituents have greater expectations for spending cuts.  “I propose cutting $500 billion dollars in cuts, and I go home and they say, ‘That’s a good start.’”

He said our day of reckoning is coming and that it will take leadership, “It’s not enough to be a Republican… Political parties mean nothing unless we imbue them with values…. We need bold leadership like Ronald Reagan. People who can articulate the American dream. People who will believe in the individual. People have unlimited potential if we can get government out of the way.”

He also said that the most important vote that he’ll take is one on whether or not our soldiers will go to war.  Criticizing President Barack Obama’s decision on Libya.  He noted that President George W. Bush took a lot of grief over his decision to send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, but also noted he at least went to Congress.  Not so with President Obama, Paul said, sharply criticized Obama’s circumventing Congress Paul complained, “Obama had time to go to the U.N., he had time go to NATO, he had time to go to the Arab League, and he had time to go talk to individual citizens, but he didn’t have time to go to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and talk to the people’s representatives.”

Ending his speech he exhorted Iowan Republicans to “help us find the right person” to run against Obama.  Afterwards I had an opportunity to ask him about his 2012 aspirations.  he told me, “I’ve got to see what my other half (his father) decides to do.”

So it would seem that we’ll have a member of the Paul family running in 2012.

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