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Fired-up Republicans rally Cedar Rapids crowd


CEDAR RAPIDS — Jeff Kaufmann nearly hugged U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. On stage. In front of an audience and C-SPAN cameras.

“Maybe on your second visit,” the Republican Party of Iowa chairman told the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who had endorsed Iowa’s leadoff role every four years in the presidential nomination process.

“It’s worked. Why would you change it?” the Florida senator said when Kaufmann asked him about Iowa’s precinct caucuses.

That first-in-the-nation status is often challenged, and this year the Democratic National Committee is looking at changes that could knock off Iowa off that first-in-the-nation perch.

Scott said he didn’t see a need for tinkering with the nomination calendar.

“Every state is unique,” he said. “What you have works for Iowa and it works the country. It’s helped give us really good candidates.”

That didn’t work for Democrats in 2020, when the party’s complex counting process and faulty technology fouled up the results for weeks. But the focus Thursday night was not on the past — but on Republican victories and the future.

Scott said he believes President Joe Biden, who took office 10 weeks ago, won’t be reelected because “if you look at where we are, the Biden agenda is unpopular.”

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GOP polls show Americans favor secure borders, 70-plus percent want children back in school and they disagree with the president’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline.

“They want us to stop all of the crazy spending. Stop all of the bad ideas,” Scott said. “I actually believe if we all are vocal about this, we’ll stop this stuff. The public is on our side. We need to talk to them.”

Rather than spend time on “the small, little fights we get into,” everything Republicans are saying, writing and posting on social media should be tied to 2022, Kaufmann said.

“We don’t care how the deck chairs on the Titanic are arranged,” he said. “We want to steer away from the iceberg.”

The “iceberg” is the “absolute madness coming from the left,” according to Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

Scott was in Cedar Rapids to help raise money for Ernst, who won reelection in November for a second term representing Iowa. She was on the same page as Scott.

The next two years will be pivotal for Republicans, she told a few hundred people at the Elmcrest Country Club, echoing Scott’s optimism about winning back control of the Senate.

“This is doable,” she said. “We’ve got to keep the faith. Stay steady. Stay Strong. Stay with us.”

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In 2022 in the Senate, there will be 20 GOP seats and 14 Democratic seats on the ballot. Winning back the majority will be a tall order, Scott said, “but Republicans, independents and some Democrats are fed up.”

The job could be easier with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on the ticket.

The seven-term Butler County Republican is being coy about his plans. Grassley, 87, who has said repeatedly that if his health is good he will run again, plans to announce his decision this summer or fall. If he runs, he will have a GOP primary opponent. If Grassley doesn’t run, both the GOP and Democratic fields of primary candidates are expected to be large, as open U.S. Senate seats have been rare in Iowa.

Out of respect to the senior senator, Ernst said she doesn’t ask him about his reelection plans. But that doesn’t stop Scott from asking Grassley every time he sees him whether he’s raising money for the campaign and whether he has he announced he’s running.

“Sen. Grassley has been there long enough to know his way around,” Scott said. “He needs to stay there.”

That sentiment wasn’t shared by a handful of sign-waving members of Indivisible Iowa who greeted Republicans as they arrived at the Elmcrest Country Club for the fundraiser. “Hinson’s a hypocrite” and “Hinson and Ernst voted against the American Rescue Plan” — referring to 1st District Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson — were typical signs.

“We need people in Congress who will represent the people, not the big money,” said Elwood Garlock of Cedar Rapids. “The same goes for Grassley and other Iowa Republicans in Congress. Their votes don’t represent us.”

Inside, the atmosphere was upbeat, especially when 2nd District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa arrived. Her opponent, Democrat Rita Hart of Wheatland, this week withdrew her petition asking the House to overturn the narrow results. Hart claimed 22 legally cast ballots were not counted in the race.

Miller-Meeks’ perseverance is proof, Kaufmann said, “Iowans can’t be bought and won’t be bullied.”

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Miller-Meeks became emotional as she thanked supporters and talked about the challenge she has faced over the past four months.

“We were in a staring contest with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. She blinked,” Miller-Meeks said.

Iowa Republicans are fired up and energized, Kaufmann said. “Not just an energy of defense (against) this federal nonsense. It’s the energy of a positive party … a party that is going to have a better 2022.”

And that starts today, added former Speaker of the Iowa House Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake. “Take a piece of that energy home with you tonight,” she said.

Hinson, of Marion, was a “special guest.” Her defeat of a Democratic incumbent in the 20-county northeast Iowa district that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Dubuque was another of the GOP highlights in November.

It wasn’t a completely one-sided affair. Led by Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, the crowd prayed for Biden, asking that he be blessed with “the passion of Sen. Joni Ernst, the tenacity of Miller-Meeks and the desire to serve of Hinson … (and) help the president to see the light of the American people because his light has been dimmed.”



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