(Des Moines, IA) Michael Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan, was the special guest for the 2014 Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner held last night at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines. Reagan told over 450 Iowa Republicans that the party must reach out to groups that normally don’t vote for them in order to win elections in the future. “Conservatives, we have a bus,” Reagan said. “It’s not a large bus. We need to not throw people off the bus, but find ways to put people on the bus.”
He encouraged Republicans to not fight among themselves, but to fight Democrats whom he compared to termites. “They are feeding on the foundation of our country,” Reagan stated.
Reagan said Republicans needed to craft a message, and expand it. He exhorted Republicans to not allow others, like the media, to carry the message for them. He also encouraged Republicans to field likable candidates because that is how his father won the youth vote in 1980. He said that the party must find ways to relate to them, “after all we are giving them $17 trillion of debt, we need to let them know which party is the one that will work to get rid of it,” Reagan said.
He also said that Republicans need to go to places that didn’t vote for them during election years and stay there during off years to cultivate relationships. “Democrats never go home,” he added.
He also had some pointed criticism for the Obama administration in the form of stories about his father. He mentioned the best speeches were the ones Ronald Reagan never gave. “Do you remember that press conference he gave before sending troops into Grenada? No? You don’t because he never gave one,” Reagan said. He pointed out that his father never projected to America’s enemies what he was going to do.
“He did not call the UN to ask permission to be the President of the United States,” Reagan asserted about his father. He pointed out that one of his accomplishments was that the Soviet Union did not take an inch of ground while he was in office. He then pointed out Russia’s aggression today.
Reagan also pointed out that his father found ways to engage with his opponents. He said he would start debates from where they agreed, not disagreed. He noted out his father was able to carry out the largest tax cut in history working with the late Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.
There was a long list of speakers leading up to Reagan’s speech. Those attending heard from Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds who touted the accomplishments of the Branstad Administration to help bring in new businesses, turn a $900 million deficit into a surplus, property tax reform and the education reform bill that passed in 2013.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, said during her remarks that “Hope doesn’t come from government, but it sure shouldn’t take it away from people.”
State Treasurer candidate Sam Clovis, Attorney General candidate Adam Gregg, State Auditor Mary Mosiman, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, Iowa 3rd Congressional District candidate David Young, Congressman Steve King, Congressman Tom Latham, and Governor Terry Branstad all preceded Michael Reagan’s keynote address.
Gregg during his remarks pointed out that Attorney General Tom Miller had time to spend 111 days in Washington, DC since President Obama was elected, but has not found the time to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. Gregg just finished his 99 county tour. King pointed out that his critics were wrong about his Congressional District. They used to say a conservative couldn’t win a Republican primary there, but he showed that a conservative can win the district and that the district is right of center. “We believe in life, we believe in marriage, we believe in the Constitution,” he asserted.
Latham took time to thank Iowans for letting him serve, but started with a shot at President Obama. “Jimmy Carter has to be the happiest person in America today because President Obama is making him look good,” he joked.
Branstad highlighted Iowa’s turnaround and stated that his administration is not done yet. He took time to share some memories of Ronald Reagan before Michael Reagan spoke.
After Michael Reagan’s speech, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley discussed how the U.S. Senate would look different if Joni Ernst won her race. He said Republicans would restore the United States Senate as the deliberative body it has constitutionally and historically been. Grassley pointed out how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has sat on bills and has squashed amendments, even bipartisan ones, restricting Senators from participation. He said that some want Republicans give Democrats a taste of what Republicans have gone through during a Democrat majority. “We are not going to rub the Democrats in it. We are going to restore the United States Senate and Joni Ernst is the first step in that process,” Grassley said. He pointed Republicans plan to return minority party protections (like the need for a super majority on confirmations, etc.) back to the Senate, and pass a budget.
Joni Ernst gave an impassioned speech about why she is running for U.S. Senate. She pointed out the domestic policy difference between herself and Congressman Bruce Braley. Ernst reserved her sharpest criticism for foreign policy differences. “I get so disheartened when we have a President and a Congressman who are so disengaged on what is happening internationally,” Ernst stated. She reminded Republicans of her military service overseas. “My boots were on the ground in Iraq that is now held by ISIS.”
She said Obama could have stopped ISIS in Iraq before they ever got a foothold. She said with Ebola, with ISIS, and with his foreign policy in general the Obama administration has lacked leadership. “We have an administration that has been reactive rather than proactive. We need to protect our American citizens,” Ernst stated.
She warned that America is at a crossroads and that the nation needs to change direction. She was also confident of the outcome on election night. “I will be your next U.S. Senator. I will do this,” Ernst said.
During the evening there were a couple of remarks that seemed like cloaked shots at the previous party leadership in form of compliments paid to the current leadership. State Representative Pat Grassley who introduced the Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said, “Jeff has been a breath of fresh air for this party.”
Branstad during his remarks said, “Jeff Kaufmann, Cody Hoefert… thanks for bringing the Republican Party back.”
Kaufmann, Hoefert, and the rest of the speakers made no reference to the party’s past. Hoefert announced they had reached their fundraising and staffing goals made when they were first elected chair and co-chair. Hoefert said has raised $500,000 since June 28th and because of that have been able to hire a full team and door knockers.
Kaufmann’s major announcement of the evening came after Secretary of State Matt Schultz spoke. He reported that the Iowa GOP has closed the early voting gaps with Democrats and at the end of the day on 10/21/14 only 321 votes separated the two parties.
Numerous speakers encouraged Republicans to engage their friends and families to vote early, and barring that make sure nobody in their family misses out voting. Clovis encouraged Republicans to “leave everything on the field” so no one has to wonder what they could have done differently on November 5th.