Final look at Saturday’s GOP event

Here are a few final thoughts about Saturday’s Iowa GOP Lincoln Unity Dinner:

1.  Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson gave the longest speech — over half an hour.  Each candidate had been "allotted" 10 minutes for their introduction and speech.  Thompson may brag about cutting government waste while he was governor, but apparently he isn’t willing to cut wasteful rhetoric in his speeches.  John McCain, in at about nine minutes, earned kudos for giving the shortest speech and got a very enthusiastic response from the crowd — perhaps because of his focus on Iraq, but perhaps because he was the final speaker who knew the crowd wanted to get up and go.  McCain’s delivery was staccato-fast, too — projecting an energy that perhaps simmered to a boil while he stood backstage and waited for Thompson’s speech to end.

2.  Rudy Giuliani, the first speaker, received almost the least-enthusiastic response from the crowd.  Giuliani’s opening moments fell flat; his joke about hell and snow took too long and the punchline wasn’t worth the wait. The designation of least-positive response from the crowd goes to former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who uttered the "Rudy McRomney" line and actually drew a few boos.  "We didn’t call it a Unity Dinner for nothing," said one GOP insider.

3.  Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo’s red-meat rhetoric on immigration got the loudest audience response.  His opening joke that he was Steve King fell a bit flat, however.  Too few people in the crowd knew the history to get the joke. (People in DC confuse the two all the time, and sometimes — albeit from a distance — the two men’s wives have gotten them confused.  King himself did a double take a couple of weeks ago when he passed a TV set and saw himself talking, then realised it was Tancredo.)

4.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was probably the biggest winner Saturday because it was his first opportunity to introduce himself to many of the people in the audience and his pulpit past means he has the chops to perform in such a setting. One GOP insider described Huckabee’s appearance as "impressive"– partly because of his rockin’ reception afterwards (Huckabee & his band played, plus they had a comedian who does bits on Rush Limbaugh’s show perform, too).  Leave it to a Baptist minister to throw the best after-party.

UPDATE!  Forgot to mention this before, but ponder the following:  what is all the Democratic presidential hopefuls were to gather in one spot for an evening of speech-making to Iowa Democrats? How many people would that event attract?  In November of 2003, when Hillary Clinton was the emcee for such an event, there were several thousand in old Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines.  What would the crowd size for this cycle’s candidates at a similar event?  One REPUBLICAN to whom I posed that question on Saturday replied:  "You’d have to rent Sec Taylor."  Sec Taylor (aka Principal Park) is the stadium for the Iowa Cubs.  It seats about 13,000.  By contrast, there were just over 1000 Iowa Republicans at Saturday’s night’s event in Des Moines.

You can read my on-the-fly notes from Saturday night in the two previous posts.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.