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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Winnowing Begins

The painful process of winnowing down a potentially gigantic Republican president field is now officially underway with two events, one yesterday and one tomorrow.
Yesterday Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush got together in Utah to discuss–well, we don’t know exactly what they discussed. But what apparently began as a courtesy call by Bush on the “titular head of the Republican Party” became something else after Romney abruptly put himself back into the Invisible Primary with aggressive moves towards a candidacy. They’re now practically stumbling over each other in the pursuit of donors and perhaps campaign staff. Perhaps they divided them up yesterday; perhaps they just agreed neither of them would make any moves that would wind up representing a murder-suicide for the Establishment wing of the GOP. We’ll have to wait and see.
Tomorrow’s event is public (though it will undoubtedly be accompanied by private meetings and much kissing-of-the-ring of its primary host): the Iowa Freedom Summit being co-hosted by the famous nativist and all-around right-wing bully-boy Rep. Steve King in conjunction with the public-spirited folks at Citizens United. This is the first major “cattle call” of the 2016 cycle, where proto-candidates will give sequential speeches, mixed in with local and national conservative celebrities. The would-be presidents include John Bolton, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker. Also there will be Jim DeMint, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and Iowa’s new conservative heartthrob, Joni Ernst. Bush and Romney won’t be there because of “scheduling conflicts,” which might have been their Utah meet. Rand Paul won’t be there because he doesn’t do cattle calls (other than actual debates). Others (Pence, Kasich, Graham, Rubio) probably haven’t done enough to be counted as being serious about running. I have no idea why Bobby Jindal isn’t going to be there, other than it conflicting with his “trade mission” to Europe wherein he’s insulting Muslims.
In any event, aside from the speakers the event will include a large crowd of conservative activists and a horde of media folk. Both will be watching for several “stories:” (a) 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee vs. 2012 winner Rick Santorum for Christian Right leadership; (b) Chris Christie dealing with a rare hostile audience; (c) Rick Perry trying to show his “new” slick persona; (d) Glenn Beck faction favorite Ben Carson with his first real spotlight speaking appearance; (e) Scott Walker trying to dispel the “Next Pawlenty” image by showing some fire; and (f) seeing who will do the most to pander publicly to King’s POV on immigration. There’s even a remote possibility someone will try to do a “Sister Souljah” gesture towards King and/or Iowa conservatives, though a tropical hurricane hitting Des Moines may be more likely.
But in any event, by Monday someone will have moved up or down–or maybe out–in the 2016 contest.

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