(Boone, IA) U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) discussed the Iowa Caucus race and Iowa Straw Poll with media during her inaugural Roast and Ride held at the Central Iowa Expo.
Several presidential candidates were in attendance at Ernst’s fundraiser. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Ben Carson, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee were given time to speak to the large crowd assembled.
She said that it was important that a candidate understand the region, but is not necessarily from the region.
“They get questions from voters out there that are Iowa-specific so I think it is helpful that they do know a lot about our agriculture, our economy, our great manufacturing base, that is always going to be very helpful,” Ernst said.
While it is not important that a candidate is from region, she said she believed Iowans were looking for strong leadership. “What we are looking for is leadership which is what we’ve been lacking for so very long. So if they see a strong leader amongst these candidates that is probably who they are going to gravitate towards,” Ernst stated.
A candidate’s proximity to Iowa has rarely played a part in Iowa Caucus politics. Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas) has been the only Midwesterner to win the Iowa Caucus winning in 1988 and 1996. Dole was the eventual Republican nominee in 1996 losing to then incumbent President Bill Clinton. Former President (then Governor of Texas) George W. Bush won the Iowa Caucus in 2000, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won in 2008, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) won in 2012. In 2012 candidate’s from the Midwest did not fare well with former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) placing six to drop out of the race the next day. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race after the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll.
Ernst noted that retail politics are extremely important to Iowa Republicans. “Iowans want to see their candidates. They want to reach out and shake their hand. They want to ask that question face to face, grassroots are important, family is important, neighbors are important in Iowa. We want someone who will fit that mold and is able to connect with voters. That is what they are looking for,” Ernst said responding to a reporter.
Ernst said that the Iowa Straw Poll is important and candidates should attend, but not participating doesn’t disqualify a candidate.
“I think it is important because we have a lot of candidates who will come out and attend events like this, but we are not getting a read on how those candidates are doing. So we really want the grassroots activists to come out and vote on who they want to see as their candidate. That is what the straw poll will accomplish,” Ernst noted. “Every candidate is going to have their reasons as to why they are participating or not, but I think they will get a better response if they do come to the Iowa Straw Poll.”
Ernst said that Iowa’s First in the Nation status is not negatively impacted by candidates skipping the Iowa Straw Poll. Ernst emphasized what Iowa represents, “What I want to emphasize to the candidates is that Iowa is a great cross-section of the United States, not only are we a strong agricultural state, but we also have a strong manufacturing base. We have technological companies that are coming up – we have Google, we have Facebook, STEM initiatives are important. We also have strong financial institutions here in Iowa as well. So you will see across the board a great cross section of America. It’s important that they come here.”
Watch her entire remarks here or below: