The reason for the change was to accommodate Iowa Code in the case of no U.S. Senate candidate reaching a 35% threshold after the primary on June 4th. The nominee would then be decided at convention. The law gives the Iowa Secretary of State’s office 27 days to canvass the vote.
Some Republicans were quick to criticize. Some were suspicious of a conspiracy by the liberty-wing of the party. Others complained that it would be a lost month for Republicans in the general campaign.
Governor Terry Branstad weighed in at his weekly press conference saying, “I believe that they should reconsider and maintain the convention in June. I think it’s a real mistake to move it back.”
Spiker told Caffeinated Thoughts today that it didn’t seem controversial when they made the decision on Saturday. He said he’d rather not have it in July either. He said that every Republican’s goal should be for the nominee to reach 35% at the primary – which would make the date a non-issue.
With the crowded U.S. Senate field it is a real possibility that no candidate will reach 35%. The Republican Party of Iowa has to be prepared if that is the case.
Spiker was concerned that if they held the traditional convention at the June 14th date and then held a special convention attendance at the traditional convention would likely be lower. “It is in the best interest of the party to have one state convention,” Spiker said. He said that the first weekend after the canvassing period is July 4th weekend which is why July 12th was decided upon.
It should be noted that if two conventions were held, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds would be nominated at the traditional convention. With the talk of a convention challenger having lower attendance is not something the Branstad campaign would want.
Some critics state that Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is given 27 days to canvass the results, but that he doesn’t have to. Spiker pointed out that it would be unseemly for the party to pressure the Matt Schultz to hurry, and they can’t anticipate that. He also said that Governor Branstad could push for a change in the law next session taking pressure off the party.
So far, Spiker noted, no one has offered an alternative date.
If the primary doesn’t decide the party nominee candidates could use the time to woo delegates. Congressman Steve King (R-IA) in his first congressional race after the 2002 primary only garnered 30% of the vote after a four-way primary. A nomination convention was held three weeks later in Denison where Congressman King won on the third ballot. According to a 2012 profile of Congressman King in The Sioux City Journal, King engaged in what he called a “Ambush Some Delegates” plan. He and his wife Marilyn, starting at 5:00a, would drive to the towns where some of the uncommitted 550 delegates lived in order to ask for their support.
A statewide race with even more delegates would take more time.
Also while a nominating a U.S. Senate candidate in convention would not be ideal; candidates could raise money for the general election after the primary. They can still make their case against Bruce Braley. The party, while it can’t be involved in a contested primary (another rule decided on Saturday), they can still campaign against Braley. Point being, it wouldn’t be an entirely wasted month which really isn’t much longer than if they kept the convention on June 14th and had to order a special convention (In Steve King’s case it was three weeks).
Update: Cody Hoefert, the chair for the Lyon County Republicans and a State Central Committee member emailed me tonight.
“I was not part of the discussion on state convention Sat and would have voted against it. I stepped out to use the bathroom and that’s when that discussion occurred as I have since found out….I didn’t know the date had even changed until phone blew up about it at about 8:20 Sat night. I then called AJ to confirm because I first told the person who called it was in June and whoever said July didn’t know what they were talking about.”
2nd Update: Follow-up post written.