CEDAR RAPIDS — A warning from the national GOP chairman that there are no “sacred cows” in the presidential nominating process isn’t setting off alarms at the Republican Party of Iowa
“It’s a tale as old as time, politically speaking,” RPI spokesman Charlie Szold said Tuesday.
“There’s no new news here,” he said about Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ comment that the panel may shake up the early states on the primary calendar. Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally had the first caucus and primary, respectively, despite attempts by other states to jump ahead.
Former Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn likened to the debate to “Groundhog Day,” the movie in which a man finds himself reliving the same day again and again.
“Every four years, Iowa has to deal with its share of detractors,” Strawn said. “It’s just one of those constants that we have to deal with in Iowa politics. It’s a reminder that Iowa should never be complacent and take for granted the incredible privilege we have.”
Priebus told National Journal Iowa and other early states “are very used to fighting this out every four years.”
Although he’s been supportive of the early states, Priebus said “I don’t think anyone should get too comfortable.”
“I don’t think there should ever be any sacred cows as to the primary process or the order,” he said. Priebus expects the issue to be “front and center” when the RNC’s rules committee meets the GOP’s 2016 national convention.
That makes the discussion sound different to former RPI chairman and longtime party activist Doug Gross.
“We always have to be vigilant, but I would be more concerned than I would have been before,” Gross said.
Iowa's coveted lead-off caucuses have been in the crosshairs for years, he said.
“We barely made it through the 2008 cycle,” Gross said, and the snafu that resulted in Mitt Romney being declared the winner on caucus night 2012 only to have the party say Rick Santorum won after an audit of the ballots was fodder for the Iowa GOP’s detractors.
Add to that the argument that caucus-going Iowa Republicans tend to back conservatives who party moderates say can’t win a general election and Gross thinks there may be a strong movement to strip Iowa of its first-in-the-nation status.
“I would take it very seriously,” Gross said about Priebus’ comments.
Routine or serious, 2016 GOP hopeful Ohio Gov. John Kasich weighed in Tuesday urging the RNC not to change the line-up.
“Voters in (Iowa and New Hampshire) take their responsibility seriously and are among the most active, knowledgeable voters anywhere in the nation,” he said. “By requiring that candidates engage directly with the voters, every candidate is tested and judged fairly.”
Strawn agreed the best defense for Iowa “are successful and robust caucuses demonstrating that we take our responsibility seriously.”
A senior adviser to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham defended the current process.
“Any talk of changing this proven system where engaged voters in a small state fully analyze the candidates on issues of substance is irresponsible and a bad idea,” Paul Young said. “Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina work for our nominating process. Lindsey Graham does not believe it should change.”
The RPI has worked closely with the Iowa Democratic Party to ensure the state’s lead-off position in the nominating process. The IDP declined to comment on Priebus’ statements.