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Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 08:37

Huckabee’s Iowa Supporters Look for New Candidate

Iowa Republicans who previously backed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for president began searching Monday for another candidate to support, while Branstad said the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for president will be “wide open.”

“This is probably going to be the most wide-open, competitive race we’ve ever had for the Iowa caucuses,” Branstad said. “With hard work and retail politics, going to all 99 counties and meeting with people and answering the questions, this is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign. And it’s not too late.”

The Iowa Straw Poll, which is considered the first test of a presidential candidate’s organizational strength, is scheduled for August 13 in Ames. A GOP presidential debate broadcast live on Fox News will be held two days before the event. In past years, some candidates have decided to end their campaigns after a poor showing in the straw poll.

Branstad on Monday warned against candidates skipping the Iowa Straw Poll, as eventual 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain did the last time around.

“He didn’t win the presidency, either. I think that was a mistake,” said Branstad, whose Iowa Department of Management Director David Roederer was McCain’s 2008 state chair in Iowa. “I wouldn’t look to his campaign as the ideal in terms of how to run a successful, winning campaign and be elected president.”

Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, announced Saturday on his Fox News show that he will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012. A recent poll showed he would have again been a front-runner among Iowa Republicans should he have decided to run.

Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump announced Monday that he, too, has decided against running for president. Trump was scheduled to make his first visit to Iowa next month as the keynote speaker of the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Dinner on June 10 in Des Moines.

State Senator Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) was among those who supported Huckabee during the 2008 presidential race. Huckabee captured 34.4 percent of the vote among Iowa Republicans, easily winning the Iowa caucuses over Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo.

“The major reason that I ended up with Huckabee during the 2008 cycle was there was a genuineness that I really liked,” Bartz told “He didn’t seem to have any facade, and there were a couple of particular presidential candidates that I was concerned about that. ...

“To have him [Huckabee] not run again this time is frankly going to be a little disappointment, but it will also create a situation where I will start looking at the other contenders, because I was frankly waiting to see what his decision was going to be.”

Support for Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, among Iowa Republicans shows the strength of the social-conservative vote in Iowa, political observers said. Former New Hampshire Republican Chair Fergus Cullen wrote in an editorial published during the weekend that candidates who aren’t as socially conservative can’t compete in Iowa.

But Branstad took issue with Cullen’s editorial, which said: “Iowa Republicans have marginalized themselves to the point where competing in Iowa has become optional.”

“Mr. Cullen couldn’t be further from the facts,” Branstad said. “The truth is that Iowa is a full-spectrum state. I think the primary election that I won last year proves that. I would also point out that the front-runner, Mike Huckabee, made a decision over the weekend, which is momentous. He is not running this time, which means he got the largest block of votes in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and those are up for grabs.”

Branstad said several social conservatives are in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for president. He said he thinks former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich “sees a real opening” and is putting in a real effort here in Iowa, and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota “has an appeal.” He also cited former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as possibly attracting support from former Huckabee supporters.

Some state lawmakers have already lined up behind 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) is the state chair for Gingrich, who Monday launched a 17-stop campaign trip across Iowa after officially declaring his candidacy last week.

State Representative Jeff Kaufmann (R-Wilton) will be a senior policy adviser to Gingrich. State Representative Erik Helland (R-Johnston) is leading Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign team. And state Senator Sorenson is expected to be the political director for Bachmann.

The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for February 6.

This article was produced by For more stories on Iowa politics, visit

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