The first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses are still at least 16 months away, but an invite-only meeting held at a Des Moines hotel on Wednesday is the sort of an event that could determine Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s presidential aspirations.
In recognition of the fact those with a Biblical worldview are traditionally the largest voting bloc in the Iowa Caucuses, Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign invited about 20 key Iowa pastors for a sit-down lunch with no question off-limits. Each pastor was also given an 18-minute DVD that included information about Paul’s Christian testimony and his stance on Israel. Paul has been in the news recently for publicly denying that he once wanted to cut off U.S. aid to Israel, despite the fact in 2011 he was a vocal proponent of it.
One of the pastors in attendance, Mike Demastus of Ft. Des Moines Church of Christ, is the kind of activist you have to win over if you’re going to win the Iowa Caucuses.
“It wasn’t off-the-record and (the campaign) specifically said they wanted pastors there who were not pro-Rand,” said Demastus, who caucused for Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008. “I probably knew at least half of those guys, because we’re all pretty active politically.”
By doing this, Rand Paul was taking a necessary step in Iowa his father was hesitant to take. I was in a private roundtable with Ron Paul and a group of social conservative activists during the last caucus cycle, and to say it was a bit of an awkward exchange would be like saying Lady Gaga is a bit flamboyant. But as part of his ongoing mission to show he’s not just like his dad, while still trying to maintain prominence with his father’s libertarian base, Rand went on the charm offensive.
“(Rand) was very cordial and took the time to meet with each of us individually,” Demastus said. “That was brave and I give him a lot of credit for that. It was nice to see him being open and sharing a little bit about his personal journey. Several of us were talking before Rand came in, and we all agreed because of his father Rand had about a 0 percent chance of getting our support. I was more impressed after the meeting, even though I still didn’t agree with him on several things.”
Demastus got to ask the first question of the senator, and he said he was disappointed with Rand’s answer.