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Iowa Caucus Kingmaker Assesses 2016 GOP Field

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Arguably the most important Republican presidential endorsement to precede the 2016 Iowa Caucuses will come from Bob Vander Plaats, who failed on three occasions to become governor of Iowa.


And over here in the ‘nobody cares’ pile is Terry Branstad, Iowa’s current Republican head of state and the soon-to-be longest-serving governor in the history of this nation. How a man with that kind of stature can have zero impact on presidential politics is a solid lesson in pyrrhic victories.

The reason for such a counter-intuitive reality is simple. It’s a matter of having convictions versus pursuing positions. Vander Plaats is a man of principle, who has repeatedly demonstrated he has no interest in simply having a seat at the table.

Not only did Vander Plaats endorse the two previous winners of the Iowa Caucuses when nobody thought they had a chance to win – Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum in 2012. He also led the historic effort to get three Iowa Supreme Court judges removed from office after they pretended to have the authority to redefine marriage.

That’s the kind of conviction and track record many of the candidates in a crowded 2016 Republican presidential field would love to have in their corner. They’ll have to dig deep for it, though. As president of The Family Leader, Vander Plaats’ primary mission is Christ-centered public policy – not courting slappies and RINO-bots.

And here’s Vander Plaats’ quick takes on who’s flying and who’s flopping on the road to becoming the next President of the United States:


Jeb Bush: “He’s in trouble. When guys like John Kasich are looking to get in, that signals not everybody (in the establishment) is aligned with him.”

Ben Carson: “He needs to show up. He’s been gone. We are looking. Where is Ben Carson? He needs to be on the ground in places like Iowa.”

Chris Christie: “I’m not sure he gets in the race.”

Ted Cruz: “If I had to pick the likely candidate to win the Iowa Caucuses and probably be the nominee, it would probably be him.”

Mike Huckabee: “He’s still benefiting from being well liked and very trusted, but he needs to get the eye of the tiger.”

Bobby Jindal: “He is turning it on and saying ‘don’t count me out.’ He could be the Rick Santorum of 2016.”

John Kasich: “It’s too early to tell.”

Carly Fiorina: “She knows how to run something but she still needs to be vetted.”

Lindsey Graham: “He has to play in more than just South Carolina.”

Rand Paul: “The biggest threat to Rand Paul is that Ted Cruz is in the race. Ron Paul had the liberty segment to himself, but now you have Ted Cruz competing for that.”

Rick Perry: “I think he is going to outperform where people think he’s at. He’s got a good message.”

Marco Rubio: “Another dent to Jeb Bush. He’s a new generation and a lot of people love him.”


Rick Santorum: “A lot of people count him out, but he gets a lot of coverage when he shows up.”

Donald Trump: “Loaded with a lot of money.”

Scott Walker: “He jumped out with a bang at the Iowa Freedom Summit, but we need to see if he is a one-hit wonder.”

Vander Plaats’ take on the field and where they currently stand obviously flies in the face of conventional wisdom and polls. Proving that right now polls are irrelevant. Like the one Fox News released in January that had Mitt Romney in first place—two days before he declined to run again because he didn’t think he could win.

On the ground in early states like Iowa, all that matters right now is who is winning over the key activists that actually can move people when it counts the most. And nobody has proven they can move people when it counts more than Vander Plaats.

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