Paul, Roberts mix with GOP faithful5/15/2013
Two Republicans who could top the 2016 ticket in Iowa offered similar messages on strategy during a party event Friday night in Cedar Rapids.
Former State Rep. Rod Roberts of Carroll, a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate, and a Republican already in that chamber, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, stressed party-building, reaching across geographic and other lines, to attract winning majorities they believe have lurked just outside the reach of recent candidates for the two offices they may seek.
Paul, a likely White House contender, keynoted the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner at the Hotel Kirkwood.
Roberts worked the room, appearing very much the candidate — and one who has forged connections with Republicans outside of western Iowa. In fact, Johnson County Republicans invited Roberts to sit at their table.
“That speaks well of folks over in eastern Iowa and my relationship with a lot of people over here,” Roberts said.
As it stands, the Republican Party could have a field of multiple candidates, Roberts said. Secretary of State Matt Schultz and State Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak both have signaled interest in the U.S. Senate race and were in attendance at the Lincoln Dinner.
“You want to be in attendance here, not only to listen to Senator Rand Paul speak, but also just to connect with other grassroots activists,” Roberts said.
About 500 people attended the Lincoln event on the southern part of Kirkwood Community College in a hotel and events center operated by the school.
Standing beside the podium, with no notes or teleprompter, Paul, 50, a son of 77-year-old U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, drew sustained applause multiple times during a 20-minute speech high on humor and packed with zingers aimed at Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive Democrat front-runner in the 2016 presidential race, should she seek her party’s nomination.
Paul warmed up the partisans with an opening act on pork-barrel spending, programs he thinks showcase runaway and outrageous, if not ridiculous, federal spending.
For example, Paul pointed out that NASA is spending $1 million annually developing a menu for a Mars trip. The space agency expects to send astronauts there in about 20 years.
The menu research is a “perfect job” for a 26-year-old living in his parents’ basement, Paul deadpanned.
“Guess what a bunch of college kids came up with? Pizza,” Paul said. “That was some money well-spent.”
Paul drew a standing ovation when he challenged the Obama administration’s handling of last year’s attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. At the time, Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
“First question for Hillary Clinton: Where in the hell were the Marines?” Paul said.
Paul said Clinton failed in analyzing intelligence and protecting American lives and assets.
“The point is that Benghazi is a lot more like Baghdad than it is Paris,” Paul said.
Paul charged that the deaths at the embassy were the result of “dereliction of duty” on Clinton’s part.
“It should preclude her from holding higher office,” Paul said.
On immigration reform, Paul takes a nuanced position. He wants to see the work visa program improved for agricultural workers, for example. Paul said he can see a route to supporting comprehensive immigration reform if the legislation addresses issues he believes are key. The senator said his party must recognize that immigration reform is a gateway issue for Latinos.
“I also think that as a party we need to grow bigger and that we need to attract Latino vote,” Paul said. “That is a very practical thing, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.”
Exit polls showed President Obama with more than 70 percent of the Latino vote in his 2012 race with GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney.
“We have to change the way we are talking about it and who we are if we want to attract Latino votes,” Paul said. “We need to treat immigrants with dignity and respect. If you want to work in our country, I want to find a place for you to work.”
Paul said the reality is that a “certain sense of de facto amnesty” prevails in the nation with undocumented residents.
“Their kids will be voting,” Paul said. “If their kids think we’re hostile to them, they’re never going to vote for us. We’re an increasingly diverse nation. I think we do need to reach out to other people that don’t look like us, don’t wear the same clothes, that aren’t exactly who we are.” CV
Douglas Burns, a co-owner of The Carroll Daily Times Herald, is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist who offers columns for Cityview.