Frying Pan Meets Fire in Iowa GOP

Earlier this week we noted that the embattled Paulite chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, A.J. Spiker, resigned his post, and promptly went to work for Rand Paul’s leadership PAC.

Cue up talk from Iowa-watchers that this was a big win for Terry Branstad and “moderate Republicans” everywhere. But aside from the fact that Spiker was as unpopular among social conservatives in the GOP as among Branstad allies, there’s the little matter of what happens next, and the odds-on favorite as the next chairman is none other than Danny Carroll, whom Spiker actually brought on as co-chair recently.

Aficianados of Iowa’s presidential politics may recall that Carroll was co-chair of Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 campaign in the state. In 2010, he made waves by refusing to endorse Branstad after he defeated social conservative kingpin Bob Vander Plaats (the other Huck ’08 co-chair) in the GOP gubernatorial primary. In the runup to the 2012 Caucuses, Carroll surfaced as the Iowa director of the short-lived presidential campaign of Judge Roy Moore. And at present, Carroll is the lobbyist for Vander Plaats’ famous Family Leader organization.

Now the Iowa GOP’s state central committee is on the brink of being reconstituted at the party convention in June, after months of agitation against the Spiker regime. So Carroll could be run off then in favor of a less controversial figure. But his likely advent as Iowa Republican chief, however brief, is a sign of the complexity of Iowa GOP factional politics, where’s it’s rarely a matter of “moderates” versus “conservatives,” but more typically a multi-cornered battle featuring all sorts of exotic right-wing tendencies. As the battle-lines for 2016 form in the first-in-the-nation-caucus state, just about anything could happen.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.