Morton Blackwell
Morton Blackwell
Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committeeman for Virginia, addressed Iowa GOP activists in Ft. Dodge.

(Ft. Dodge, IA) The Republican Party of Iowa held a training event for their grassroots activists and invited the different U.S. Senate candidates who are competing for the party’s nomination to come address the group.  Approximately 60 people attended the all day event held on the campus of Iowa Central Community College in Ft. Dodge.

At the beginning of the event those in attendance heard from Morton Blackwell who is the Republican National Committeeman for Virginia and founder of the Leadership Institute who provided the training for the activists.  Blackwell serves on the RNC’s standing committee on rules.  He was heavily involved in the rules fight last summer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa when Romney surrogate, Ben Ginsberg, introduced rules that negatively impacted grassroots activism within the party.

Blackwell said he supports Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada going first in the presidential primary race.  He said he desires a reasonably long process.  He told the group that the grassroots needs time, and that a longer process helps the party nominate a more conservative candidate.  He also reaffirmed his position that the Republican National Committee should not intervene with the delegate selection process at the state level.

Blackwell was asked about the Growth and Opportunity Report issued by the RNC.  Blackwell said, “the study was done by ‘content-free’ Republicans.”  He affirmed Reince Priebus’ leadership calling Priebus the “nicest chairman we have had.”  Blackwell said he has had the opportunity to know 20 chairman during his involvement with the Republican Party.

You can watch his remarks below:


Scott Schaben from Ames, was the first candidate to speak, all candidates kept their remarks to under nine minutes.  Schaben introduced himself and encouraged Republicans to reach out to voters who may not typically be in the Republican tent.  He also called on the activists to support the eventual nominee.

You watch his full remarks below:


State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) was unable to attend Saturday. She sent her husband Gail as her surrogate.  Gail Ernst, echoed his wife’s campaign kickoff speech saying that she is a “mother, a solider, and a conservative.”  You can watch his remarks below:


David Young, former chief of staff to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, said that from his experience he knew who he can work with in the U.S. Senate and who he can’t.  He said he “quit his dream job” in order to come home to serve.  Young is a native of Van Meter, but recently resigned his post with Grassley in order to move back to Iowa in order to run.  Below are his full remarks:


Sam Clovis spoke later in the day due to attending Colonel Bud Day’s memorial on Saturday morning.  Clovis highlighted his experience.  He said that often those governing don’t really know about how government should work and know nothing about federalism.  He promised those in attendance that he would “always tell them the truth.”  You can watch his full remarks below:


Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker was the last U.S. Senate candidate to speak. He shared his bio and background with the audience. He focused on the deficit that the federal government is running.  You can watch his remarks below:


Paul Lunde of Ames, who also plans to run for U.S. Senate, was in attendance, but not allowed to speak.  He said he was being kept from speaking because he was pro-gay marriage and pro-choice.  A supporter at the event asked Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker if Lunde could be given some time.  Spiker said that the criteria to speak was clear – you had to have filed as a candidate.  Lunde said, in a letter he was handing out to those who attended, that only two of the candidates have filed.  This is inaccurate, all candidates who spoke (or had a surrogate speak) have filed paperwork for their candidacy.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz gave very brief remarks encouraging people to support his campaign against challenger “Chicago Brad” Anderson.


Sandra Childs-Smith of Ames, a volunteer for Sam Clovis, told Caffeinated Thoughts that she thought Matt Whitaker did a good job speaking, and that it was her first time hearing David Young speak.  He said that she was biased toward Sam Clovis because her son is an F-16 pilot.

“He knows how to speak with people,” Childs-Smith said.  “It is good to be able to be quick on your feet and well versed with different issues.”  She noted that with candidates she had heard already were staying with set talking points, but said that Clovis has spoken on a whole range of issues.

Jim Gengler of Sioux City said that he connected with David Young on the issues he discussed.  He also saw Sam Clovis as a “treasure trove of info” being an educator.  After Matt Whitaker spoke, Gengler said, “I had to jump up and shake his hand.  He resonated with me.”

Steven Quirk from Alta, a member of the Buena Vista County Central Committee, along with his wife Kay came to support Sam Clovis.  They said they did like what Matt Whitaker had to say, but they thought David Young sounded “too Washingtonian.”

“We are Northwest Iowa conservatives,” Steven Quirk added.  Kay Quirk pointed out she appreciated Scott Schaben’s call to support the eventual nominee.

Most attendees who spoke with Caffeinated Thoughts echoed the importance of supporting the nominee and thought any of the candidates would be a better alternative to Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).

One activist told Caffeinated Thoughts that he was unhappy with the current field.  Jeremy Freeman, a student at Iowa State University who worked with Mitt Romney’s campaign in Iowa in 2012, said that he couldn’t support any of the candidates.  He was unhappy with Joni Ernst “flip-flop” on the gas tax (first supported it and then changed her mind) and Matt Whitaker’s “flip-flop” on Obamacare (said there were parts of the health care reform he liked, but then said he wanted it repealed).  Freeman believed that Sam Clovis being a radio talk show host would have too many sound bytes that could be used as opposition research.  With David Young Freeman noted, “I don’t want a creature of Washington.”

He said he didn’t know much about Mark Jacobs who didn’t speak since he hasn’t filed as a candidate yet, but hoped he was the “real deal.”

“I’m praying that Tom Latham will reconsider running,” Freeman added.

Iowa GOP Finance Chair, Drew Ivers, was happy with Saturday’s training by Tom Schultz, the grassroots coordinator with the Leadership Institute and Ron Nehring, a consultant that works with the Leadership Institute.  “I think it was valuable to reassure those who had experience working with campaigns and enlightening for those who were new,” Ivers told Caffeinated Thoughts.  “It was encouraging to learn that the Obama machine is penetrable and not insurmountable,” Ivers added.

The Republican Party of Iowa plans to offer similar training in other parts of the state as activists express interest.

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