Republican Party of Iowa holds state convention

[This post is written in chronological order.  Scroll down to read a bit of the remarks Governor Huckabee, Congressman King made to the convention delegates. Here’s a link to audio of Huckabee’s speech. Here’s a link to audio of King’s speech.]

Things got off to a slow start.  A gentleman strolled up to the microphone to announce the following shortly after nine o’clock this morning:  "Who’s ever in charge of seating arrangements, there are no seats for Audubon County." (The chairs on the floor of Hy-Vee Hall — the site of today’s convention — are arranged iin rows, by county.  A few moments later, the same man made anouther announcement:  "There are no seats for Winnebago County either," he said, adding with a bit of sarcasm: "This is the party of inclusion!"  Some in the crowd clapped; others laughed. 

A barbershop quartet sang the National Anthem, followed by an attempt to get all the "junior delegates" to the convention on stage so they could lead the Pledge.  Unfortunately, the junior delegates started the Pledge without a signal to the crowd and they were no where near a microphone, so there was a lot of milling around and talking among the delegate ranks as they couldn’t hear that the Pledge had commenced, or even concluded. 

Things seem to be devolving in front of our eyes as a vote has been called on Rule 26. "I don’t see the rules," some guy standing beside me just said as he flipped through a sheaf of papers. (Rule 26 deals with the election/selection of the two Iowans who will be members of the Republican National Committee.  As you may know, long-time RNC committeeman Steve Roberts is being challenged by Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Christian Alliance.  There’s a race for committeewoman between out-going state legislator Sandy Greiner & Kim Lehman of the Iowa Right-to-Life Committee.)  Kim Lehman asked from a microphone on the floor whether there could be discussion of Rule 26.  They’d already voted by voice, and now there’s to be a canvas of delegates, so there’s no way to backtrack, according to the convention’s temporary chair.  Now, another woman is at the microphone is raising a point of order about the vote counter in her area of the floor — Polk County Chairman Ted Sporer. The woman says Sporer didn’t count the votes correctly. There’s a dramatic rise in chatter among the delegates.  It’s not clear who is in charge here. 

"Would it be more convenient to go to a paper ballot?" one man who claimed the microphone asked from the floor.  "NO!" was the reply from a number of delegates.

"Don’t you think it would make more sense to make sure everybody has a place to sit in their own counties before we start the meeting?" another woman asks.  A great cheer arose from the delegates.  This is not exactly a well-oiled machine. Someone nearby suggests this disarray is a metaphor for the state of the Republican Party of Iowa.  At 9:40 a.m. it seems Chaos R Us.

Just before 10 o’clock the results of the vote were announced.  A few moments later, it was revealed there are 1296 delegates here, out of a possible 2804.  "We out did the Democrats.  Way to go," the man announcing the delegate tally told the assembly.

Iowa GOP chair Stewart Iverson asked for a brief moment of silence to remember Tony Snow, former White House spokesman, who died overnight of colon cancer.

Senator Charles Grassley is apparently stuck in an airport somewhere, according to Iverson, so Congressman Steve King is the first speaker.  King began by telling folks he always rejects the decaf coffee in the morning because he wants to be up for the day.

King received hearty applause when he mentioned establishing English as the official language of the State of Iowa.  "That’s an example of what we have to do time and time again, even when we pass laws that honor our values it doesn’t matter that they’ll be respected," King said.

"My father took me into the duck blind when I was two years old…and today I stand up for that second amendment…We must pass that along for our children for each of our rights and each of our values," King said, to applause.

Now, references to the Iowa Caucuses.  "We turned out more Republicans than ever before for the Caucuses," King said, to applause from the crowd of Republicans.  "…The other side of the coin is that Democrats turned out twice as many…and that means we’ve got to stand up and do all the things necessary to get our people elected."

Next, King asked the crowd to "embrace" John McCain as the national nominee.  King described Mc Cain as an "American hero who has served America every day of his life…he is a tough & ordinary nationalist.  he loves this country."

Next, King got applause for praising the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and suggested no one in the Hanoi Hilton would form a similar group to contest McCain’s election in the way the Swift Boaters opposed John Kerry’s.

King next turned to the Supreme Court.  "We’re made up of two things — nature and nurture…and as I track through that continuum of Obama, I see nothing in there where he would have been exposed to patriotism, conservatism, Republicanism, probably not even many of the other values that we’re talking about, but I can tell you what he has been exposed to and that’s the Harvard School of Law," King said, "and when (Obama) makes appointments to the Supreme Court, they will not be the appointments that John McCain will make."  King said McCain’s picks would be like John Roberts & Samuel Alito, Bush’s recent nominees to the court.  (FYI:  Roberts got his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard; Alito got his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.)

Huckabee was the next speaker, and he began by joking about being recognized as he travels around the country.  Huckabee told the story of his experience with a fellow passenger on an airplane who thought he recognized Huckabee.  "I know who you are," Huckabee said the man told him,  "You’re MItt Romney."

Huckabee recounted his response: "Dude, if I were Mitt Romney I wouldn’t be riding in coach right now."

Next, Huckabee recalled his childhood, growing up in the south "in the height of segregation."  He drew applaue from the crowd of Republicans when he praised the idea of voters choosing without consideration for the color of a candidate’s skin or their gender.

"While I salute Senator Obama for his remarkable journey and believe the journey itself has been good for this country, I would be the first to tell you he has gone far enough and it has nothing to do with his color.  It has to do with the convictions he would bring to the highest office in the land," Huckabee said.  He was interrupted twice during that paragraph.

Now, the fight over who will be the RNC committeeman and committeewoman from Iowa.

UPDATE at 2:11 p.m. Iowa GOP’s Nathan Treloar reports via email the following results

1347 voting delegates

Sheffler 788
Roberts 543

Lehman 729
Greiner 484 

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About O.Kay Henderson

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