Columns

Political Mercury

June 30, 2011 |

By Douglas Burns

 

Ryan Rhodes

Tea Party leader close to endorsement

 

The founder and chairman of one of Iowa's prominent Tea Party organizations says he plans to endorse a Republican presidential candidate as early as next week.

Ryan Rhodes and members of his Iowa Tea Party Group have spent the last two weeks traveling the state in a bus, working to train activists and vetting candidates in the GOP presidential field who have joined them at various stops.

More than 10,000 people are on the group's mailing list, organizers said. On the tour, the Tea Party Group has trained about 700 people in caucus organization, communications and use of political technology so far, Rhodes said in an interview last Friday afternoon in Carroll.

Several Republican candidates made appearances, or plan to, with the group at other stops in Iowa, including businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, as well as former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The tour ends this coming weekend in Des Moines.

Rhodes, a Republican, said his Tea Party Group includes Democrats and independents as well as Republicans.

After July 3, Rhodes himself will endorse a candidate.

" It will not be President Obama," Rhodes said.

Rhodes said he wouldn't endorse contenders who don't campaign aggressively in Iowa.

" I can tell you it won't be Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman," Rhodes said of the respective former GOP governors of Massachusetts and Utah who appear to be largely looking past Iowa with their strategies.

Rhodes said the Iowa Tea Party Group is not a subsidiary of the Republican Party.

" It's not a party," Rhodes said. "That was the name brought up for the movement. This is a way for us to put pressure on local and state and federal officials to make a difference in the political process."

He added, "I don't think you have to be Republican just to be conservative."

The movement is one based on ideas, not party platform, he said.

" We stand for limited government, fiscal responsibility," Rhodes said. "We want to return to the Constitution."

Another issue: education needs to involve more local control and not be directed from statehouses or Congress, Rhodes said.

The Iowa Tea Party Group is not the only organization operating under the broad tent of the national movement in Iowa.

" There's other groups around Iowa, and I don't control all the groups," said Rhodes, 29, a Cedar Rapids native who recently worked for six GOP candidates for the Iowa Senate.

Rhodes, who lives in Des Moines, began The Iowa Tea Party Group in 2009.

" I wanted to be able to do stuff across the state and help be able to train people, to give them the tools to help be more effective activists," he said.

Rhodes said the Tea Party Group's limited government motivations do not extend to abortion rights.

" If somebody's not allowed to be born, then they don't have many rights at all," Rhodes said. "For me, I don't believe it's limited government if the person can't be born."

Rhodes disputed the contention that the Tea Party will pull the winner of the Iowa Caucuses and the Republican nomination too far to the right for a general election.

" The fact is President Obama's radical, leftist agenda has taken us down a path people don't want to see," Rhodes said. "We need to show the opposite of that, and that's a strong limited-government, conservative agenda that gets us back to where we need to be."

He added, "We want this government to come back, so neighbors can help neighbors."

 

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The British bookmaking website Ladbrokes.com handicaps the Iowa GOP Presidential Caucuses with Waterloo native and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in the lead spot at 5 to 2. (Bet $200 to win $500) Here are the odds for the andidates: Michele Bachmann 5/2; Tim Pawlenty 3/1; Mitt Romney 7/2; Sarah Palin 7/1; Jon Huntsman 8/1; Herman Cain 8/1; Rick Perry 8/1; Rick Santorum 20/1; Newt Gingrich 25/1; Ron Paul 25/1; Gary Johnson 33/1. CV

 

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.