Thursday, June 21, 2007

Brownback Live Blogging: Cedar Rapids

Brownback Live Blogging: Cedar Rapids

11:23 and hello. Our venue for the morning slash afternoon is the Elmcrest Country Club on the north side of Cedar Rapids where we're awaiting Sam Brownback.
Elmcrest is the home course of Iowa's most famous golfer, Masters champ Zach Johnson. There's a large shrine in the entryway, right outside the dining room where the Linn County Republican Women are having lunch.

Channel 2 appears ready for Live At Noon coverage. Speech was originally announced for 11:15 or 11:30 but now looks more like 12:15 or 12:30.

12:03 and things are starting.

Elmcrest Country Club's Zach Johnson display.

Steve West has a lot of stories. The former Hiawatha mayor is now parade chair for the Linn County GOP. West's family settled in Iowa in the pre-territorial era and ran a bank "until 1933 when Roosevelt took it away." Steve committed to Brownback early, but also likes the Thompsons Fred and Tommy. "The Republican Party is kind of up for grabs now," he says. "I hope the conservative wing doesn't sit it out if someone like Giuliani gets it. We need to stick together and keep Hillary of Obama or Edwards out of there."

Sherin Gifford thinks it's too early to decide but likes Brownback: "He's pro-life, that's the main thing." Willa Richey agrees: "He's honest, consistently pro-life. And he's also mentioned immigration, and we need to secure the borders first."

12:09. Nick Pottebaum is only 16 but already active in the GOP. The Linn-Mar junior, already a veteran of the Nussle and Leach campaigns, is backing Rudy Giuliani because "he can beat any Democrat." Nick thinks Giuliani has performed well under pressure. "Every day the president might be put on the spot, and it's at those times that he shines the brightest -- in the dark times."

Asked about differences between Giuliani and Brownback on abortion, Nick points to the increase in adoptions and decrease in abortions in New York City while Giuliani was mayor. "Rudy's personally pro-life but as a lawyer he respects and abides by the law, and Roe v. Wade is the law now based on what the judges said at that time. We need to protect life and also respect the law."

If Giuliani is not nominated, Nick might consider other options such as Giuliani's successor Mike Bloomberg, who's contemplating an independent bid. "He has a lot of experience in the corporate world and has the ability to be president."

12:14 the prayer "in Jesus' name" and the pledge. Announcements and dining commence. 50 or so people here.

Before lunch I spotted Wendy Barth, the 2006 Green candidate for governor. She's bird-dogging for Iowans for Sensible Priorities, wondering if she can get Brownback's reaction to the 10,000 nuclear weapons still around.

Brownback is in the building, but doing TV interviews.

12:21 Brownback walks in.

The crowd is dressier and older than I've seen at other GOP events, fitting with the country club atmosphere. The dining room has a nice view of the driving range. Feels like a luncheon and not a rally. No signs or music.

12:23 Sam's low-profile in Dockers, tie-less shirt and a Blackberry on the belt. Casually sits down at the sign in table while being introduced.

12:25 Sam starts with several jokes about common county names between Iowa and Kansas, including his Linn County birthplace. More geography and sports which eventually comes around to "we share Iowa values." I vote the same as Grassley. "I don't lust after the power of the presidency, but I think we need to get back to our common values."

12:29. 36% of kids out of wedlock, God out of schools. "We need to get the basics right" applause. Like Reagan: get the basics right and be optimistic.
Welfare -- encourage marriage. Keep Nativity on the courthouse square (applause). To win war with Islamofacism, rebuild the basics.

12:32 We're in a long term fight and we're seeing it in Gaza. A clear trend: Islamofascists gaining territory. We have to be capable of winning this fight (applause)

He has a good sense of timing with the applause, knowing how long to pause and not step on it.

Historic opportunity for energy independence. (My bus is 20% biodiesel) . Talking about other bio-products, cellulose ethanol. "More dependent on the Midwest, not the middle east."

12:36 I'm for an alternate flat tax and personal Soc Sec accounts. "It worked for my parents but it stinks for my kids." Make accounts optional.
in 2006 we lost, not because the Dems were winning, but because we lost our principles. We need a better political solution for Iraq, I'm offering 3 state solution.

Straw poll pitch: he has rubber wristbands and "brown goes with anything."
"Don't let the media tell you to vote with someone who doesn't share your values. Vote for someone you believe in."

Basic values, basic values, basic values.

Emma Nemecek with Brownback and Curt Hames post-speech

Namechecks Emma Nemecek, "let's give them a round of applause." So apparently the e-mail forwarder is still on board.

12:37 He wraps the speech. Diners settle down to the hubbub of eating.

12:38 Questions: Copyright and China. Sam: stop talking, use tariffs. We've been jawboning 20 years and not getting anywhere. Also, China not letting currency float, which creates a permanent imbalance. Tariffs may cause difficulty.

12:39 Immigration. Sam: I didn't think the bill was comprehensive. 1) Secure the border. I voted to fund fence (applause) 2) Interior enforcement. Integrate Social Security number with INS for immediate check. Half a trillion in Soc Sec money is from bad numbers. We need some guest worker program. Most people not opposed to immigration, opposed to illegal. We want people to come here -- but legally.

12:42 Sensible Priorities and 10,000 nukes. "Will you follow Reagan's path of verifiable disarmament" down to 1000? Sam catches who they are, won't commit. But he wants to expand military base closing procedure to rest of govt. "We've lost our way on federal spending" (applause). "The system is built to spend." No one asks for their own program cut.

12:45 he wraps questions. "We win on hope and ideas," and I want to be big ideas person.

1:00 and the lunch plates are clearing. Brownback shook some hands and took some questions on the way to his big blue bus, which was playing Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again." (Willie's a Kucinich man but I digress.) Partner in Crime Tom Lindsey says they were jammin' on the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man on the way in." Brownback departed 20 minutes after his scheduled start time in Marengo...

Update: Iowa Independent colleague Tom Lindsey's take on the event.

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