CEDAR RAPIDS — Although Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses are about 18 months away, over the next few weeks at least seven Republicans who appear to have White House hopes will visit Iowa.
For some, these will not be their first visits. So far this year, 12 potential Republican presidential candidates have made 28 visits and spent 36 days in Iowa.
Traffic has been light on the Democratic side. However, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan doesn’t think Iowans are being ignored.
“The difference — in addition to the fact that it is really, really early — is that on the Republican side they have a lot of factions, so they are out here trying to solidify their relationships with those factions,” Brennan said. “We don’t have those same factions, so there is not the same need.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann acknowledges the factions — he prefers to call it “diversity” — but doesn’t think that’s why 2016ers are coming.
“I think it shows that people think the nomination is wide open,” he said. “They also believe they’ll get a fair shake in Iowa and feel that we give them a chance to explain themselves.”
With open-seat races for a U.S. Senate and the 1st and 3rd congressional districts, a governor’s race, and both parties trying to lock up control of the Iowa Legislature, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to build goodwill and, perhaps, a network among GOP activists.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will be in Davenport on July 17 to raise funds for Gov. Terry Branstad’s re-election campaign. He’ll also do a noon fundraiser for House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids and a meet-and-greet at 3 p.m. at MJ’s Restaurant in Marion.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry will arrive July 19 to headline the nine-county North Iowa Conservative Event in Algona. The following day, he’ll meet with veterans, law enforcement and emergency responders before speaking at the Cerro Gordo Republican Party summer barbecue in Clear Lake.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will arrive Aug. 5 for a breakfast meeting of the Cerro Gordo GOP and breakfast Aug. 6 with the Westside Conservative Club Urbandale.
Five possible 2016 candidates — Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, 2008 Iowa precinct caucus winner Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — will participate Aug. 9 in The Family Leader’s Leadership Summit in Ames, which is expected to attract as many as 2,000 Christian conservatives, many who are politically active.
Cruz and Santorum each have made four visits this year. Cruz has spent five days in the state while Santorum and Perry, who has visited three times, each have spent six days.
By comparison, in the lead-up to the 2008 open-seat presidential election, Republicans made 79 visits and spent 121 days in the state from November 2004 through 2006, according to Democracy in Action’s Iowa caucus website. It appears Democratic hopefuls made 53 visits.
Brennan expects traffic will pick up, but acknowledged that Democrats thinking about running in 2016 are waiting to see what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to do.
While Clinton is weighing her options, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley visited in June to attend the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame induction of Sen. Tom Harkin, the state convention and make campaign appearances with gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jack Hatch and 1st District candidate Rep. Pat Murphy.
Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders came for a weekend in May. Vice President Joe Biden, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited in 2013, as did former governors Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Howard Dean of Vermont.
Clinton has not visited and Brennan is not aware of any impending visit.
“But we would welcome her whenever she wants to come,” he said.