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HomeNewsPoliticsWhich Likely 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Made Their Case In Iowa?

Which Likely 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Made Their Case In Iowa?


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Iowa Freedom Forum on January 24, 2015. (Photo: Getty Images)

More than 1,000 religious conservatives met at the Iowa Freedom Forum Saturday to hear 10 hours of speeches from likely 2016 Republican candidates for president. So, which one made their case to the first in the nation primary caucus state voters, and the nation?

The Biggest Winner

First, rather than get into highlights from the candidates’ speeches, PPD projects the clear winner to be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. For a variety of reasons, including delivering what a majority of activists we spoke with felt was a flawless speech, Walker’s performance excelled even our expectations.

That’s worth noting, because he was the potential 2016 president candidate PPD previously named the upcoming cycle’s dark house, for crying out loud.

“It was a clear Walker victory. He had expectations coming in here, he was on everyone’s shortlist and he had to meet those expectations and I thought he far exceeded them,” said former Iowa Republican Party political director Craig Robinson. “I thought his speech was just perfect, and I thought his delivery was perfect. The delivery really surprised me.”

Fair or not, because of his former role, Mr. Robinson is seen by some as a more establishment voice in the party, but Walker impressed even the most conservative advocates.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him live and he was tremendous. It was a great speech,” said well-known Iowan conservative Sam Clovis, the party’s 2014 nominee for state treasurer. “That was something special.”

Clovis’ statement is one we frequently hear from Walker’s first-time observers. While mainstream media outlets, including FOX News, have a tendency to portray Walker as vanilla, you will hear a very different take from others who either have had the chance to speak with the governor in person, at a campaign event or have heard one of his speeches.

On the issue of specific policy prescriptions, not everyone was completely thrilled.

“He was very personable,” Iowa conservative radio host Steve Deace told The Hill. “When the questions were about his resume he was really good because he has a pretty good resume. When the questions got into a broader context about policies beyond his resume his answers were pretty canned, pretty typical formula talking points.”

Deace interviewed Walker on Saturday, and did say “he’ll have to provide a lot more substance on issues than when I got a chance to talk to him.”

But that’s not entirely what this forum was meant to do, but rather candidates are expected to sketch their vision for their own campaign and ultimately the country in the minds of caucus-goers, who can draw a reasonable conclusion on candidates like Gov. Walker, because both his electoral and governing track records in Wisconsin are both conservative and strong.

“You see, I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and around the country that if you’re not afraid to go big and go bold you can actually get results,” Walker said during his speech, which included touting his social (late-term abortion restrictions) and fiscal (tax cuts from budget surplus) accomplishments, naming the threat from “radical Islamic terrorists” and his pro-Second Amendment record.

Yet, despite detractors, most flat-out disagreed with Deace, including Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, who met with Walker last week at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in San Diego.

“He was quite impressive in terms of him talking about specifics about what he’s done in Wisconsin and the kind of leader he was,” said Scheffler. “People want somebody like him who has a track record and isn’t afraid to take on the powers that be, whether that be Scott Walker or whoever.”

The Biggest Losers

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney were the two biggest losers coming out of the event Saturday. First of all, neither of the two, arguably most-recognizable potential candidates even bothered to show up. Second, they were absolutely skewered by billionaire TV personality and potential candidate Donald Trump, whose argument that the party needs to move forward, not look back to the past, was well-received by the crowd.

“You can’t have Romney. He choked,” Trump said. “You can’t have Bush. The last thing we need is another Bush.”

While a recent Gravis Marketing Poll found Romney (21 percent) and Bush (14 percent) ahead of Walker, who came in third at 10 percent, Trump spoke to the dominant sentiment in the activist base of today’s Republican Party, nationwide.

A recent PPD Poll found that a Bush candidacy would depress Republican voter turnout. A slim majority of Republican and Republican-leaning independents — 51 percent — said they are less likely to vote in 2016 if Jeb Bush is the nominee, and 48 percent of registered voters say they definitely will not vote for another Bush.

Further, just 29 percent of Republicans say the former Florida governor should run for president in 2016, but even among these voters, just 14 percent say they will definitely vote for Bush in their state primary or caucus.

Similarly, a recent Rasmussen survey of a 1,000 likely Republican voters found just 33 percent believe Bush should run for president in 2016, while just as many (34 percent) disagree, and another 33 percent are not sure.

Ultimately, both Romney and Bush will have a difficult time connecting with Main Street American voters, a gift even Mr. Trump possesses more so than either of them. But, Gov. Walker and Gov. Walker alone Saturday showed that he can be the candidate with unquestionable conservative credentials, as well as the ability to broadly convey an appealing conservative message.

The GOP’s 2016 candidate must make the case they can appeal to not only traditional Republican voters, but that bloc of voters PPD has dubbed Obama-Walker voters (voters who backed Walker in 2010, the recall and 2014, but not Romney in 2012), a group whose demographic composition is not only found in Wisconsin, but throughout the battleground states.

“Walker found a way to talk about himself, talk about the country and talk about Iowa in perfect proportionality, and he did so with a style that was very easy and engaging,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “He connected to these people — you could see it.”

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

Latest comment



    Surely the GOP Establishment is going to do the right thing
    when it comes to the heated argument over illegal immigration. Rumors are rife
    at the moment over Obama’s overreaching executive orders, granting the 5
    million unauthorized persons living here. In fact the TEA PARTY, the real
    Conservatives believes that there are ONLY 5 million illegal aliens in the
    country. The numbers are in truth unknown and any statistics can be easily be
    altered. Citizen
    and legal resident should be committed to blast every state and federal
    politician through the main Washington switchboard at 1-866-220-0044, that they are being OBSERVED, as the mainstream of the
    people, especially the taxpayers don’t trust either party. The majority of the
    US population offered Senate and House Republicans the chance to prove that
    they were FOR the will of the people
    and not Wall Street lobbyists; puppets to the US Chamber of Commerce and any
    special interest by when they oust the summit of Democratic supremacy.

    repeatedly he churns out executive orders and now memorandums that bypass
    Congress, making up his own laws as he goes. Now, he’s promising come hell or
    high water he WILL veto any piece of legislation that crosses his desk
    regarding blocking amnesty or Obamacare. We the People spoke in November. In no
    uncertain terms America said “NO AMNESTY!” Yet the
    self-appointed king, the warlord in the bully pulpit, does not give a toss. He
    proclaims his way or the highway.

    again, can we trust the top echelon in Republican pecking order? I really don’t
    think we can? Even from the start, they went along with $1.1 Trillion budget
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    funding. They took the oath of Allegiance to keep America safe against enemies
    domestic and foreign, but the border remains poorly enforced or the deporting
    large numbers from our country. The say the deportability is high, but they
    counted the numbers who were removed just inside the border? This
    administration is good at fleecing the data.

    President of the National Citizenship and Immigration
    Services Council USCIS) Kenneth Palinkas, released a statement yesterday
    condemning President Obama’s executive amnesty, the lack of action in the
    Senate to reverse the executive actions, and the upcoming border security bill.
    Palinkas stated the “grave peril” that President Obama’s “skewed
    priorities” in granting executive amnesty to millions of illegal aliens
    puts the 12,000 adjudicators and personnel he represents at USCIS.

    The dedicated immigration service officers and
    adjudicators at USCIS are in desperate need of help. The President’s executive
    amnesty order for 5 million illegal immigrants places the mission of USCIS in
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    keep out those who pose a threat to US security, health, or
    finances, our officers will be assigned to process amnesty for individuals
    residing illegally inside our nation’s borders. This compromises national
    security and public safety, while undermining officer morale.

    The Administration’s
    skewed priorities mean that the Crystal City amnesty processing
    center will likely have superior worksite conditions for personnel relative to
    our normal processing centers. Additionally, the security protocols at place in
    this facility will be insufficient to engage in any basic screening
    precautions, ensuring and rewarding massive amounts of fraud. For the
    Administration to continue down this course after the Paris attacks is beyond

    went on to call out members of the Senate for their lack of initiative to pass H.R.
    240 that would
    “reverse the amnesty”.

    Yet where is the outrage
    from Congress? After the House passed its legislation to reverse the amnesty,
    all I hear is silence in the Senate. It seems Congressional leaders will not
    rise to defend the laws of the United States, but are giving in to
    the “imperial presidency.”

    Palinkas closed with concerns about the
    upcoming border security bill H.R. 399.
    Although it contains language to build 700 miles of border fence, implement a
    biometric exit system, and a requirement of operational control of the border,
    Palinkas stated it does not include “needed USCIS reforms”.

    I also remain concerned by the fact that needed
    USCIS reforms are not included in pending legislation. For instance, H.R. 399 –
    Chairman McCaul’s legislation – does nothing to preclude anyone in the world
    from turning themselves in at the US border and obtaining
    automatic entry and federal benefits. Almost anyone at all can call themselves
    an asylum-seeker and get in; it’s a global joke. It’s not border security if
    anyone can recite the magic words and get waved right on in. Those who arrived
    in the 2014 border run are still here, often living on US support and even
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    biometric exit-entry to police the rising overstay catastrophe.

    We process millions upon millions of
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    asylum-seekers, temporary workers, visitors, tourists, and more – but we do so
    without any of the resources or mission support we need to screen these
    individuals properly, let alone to conduct in-person interviews. We admit individuals
    who have no business being admitted the United States, whether public charges,
    health risks, or radicalized Islamists, and in large numbers. It is unfair to
    employees, unfair to taxpayers, and unfair to anyone concerned about
    immigration security.

    We are saying to
    Congress: help us. Provide us the tools, mission support and resources we need
    to protect the Homeland, in accord with the laws and Constitution of the United States.

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