Iowa GOP Feud Goes National

I’ve written periodically for over a year now about the endless furor surrounding Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker and its complex intersection with presidential politics. But the story hasn’t gotten much national attention beyond an August column from Slate‘s Dave Weigel.

So former state party executive director Craig Robinson, whose The Iowa Republican webpage has been my main source for insight into GOP conflict in the First-in-the-Nation-Caucus state, took to the pages of Politico to share his growing anger at Spiker and his “liberty activist” gang of former Ron Paul supporters, who have controlled the Iowa GOP since a 2012 coup associated with the selection of National Convention delegates (most of whom duly voted for Paul in Tampa).

Robinson seems to have two purposes in this piece. The first is to convince Republicans outside Iowa to disregard Spiker’s claim (channeled in a widely distributed AP piece) that the war is between good strong conservatives like him and the RINOs surrounding Gov. Terry Branstad. No, insists Robinson, it’s between the Paulites and everybody else. His second purpose appears to be to pre-mobilize backers of potential 2016 presidential candidates not named Rand Paul to back a purge of Spiker when that first becomes procedurally possible in January of 2015, just when the presidential cycle begins in earnest.

This is mostly old news to me, but I am fascinated by the role of Ted Cruz in the Iowa brouhaha. In his first trip to the state last summer, Cruz was greeted with almost hysterical excitement by everyone, including Craig Robinson:

[P]erhaps the most impressive thing about his first Iowa trip was his ability to get so many different operatives to assist him. The 2016 race won’t begin in earnest until the 2014 elections are in the books, but it is a rarity for so many different people to lend a helping hand to a single politician making his maiden voyage into the state. If anything, it might suggest that Cruz could be a unifying candidate should he choose to run for President in 2016.

In Robinson’s Politico piece, Cruz figures mainly as someone who’s appeared at not very successful Spiker-organized state party fundraisers, and less directly, as someone the Liberty folk smile on along with Rand Paul.

So is Ted Cruz getting snarled up in the Iowa GOP cage-match? Or could he still benefit from a situation where he’s the only “constitutional conservative” mutually admired by Paulites and orthodox Chrlstian Right types? Hard to say, but when Iowa Republicans seem to be calling for help from beyond their ranks instead of simply dictating to the national party, something’s up.

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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.