Presidential hopefuls popping up


Within a 48-hour period, two Republican governors left their coastlines and trekked about a 1,000 miles each to the heartland of the country — Iowa.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie traveled along Interstate 80 through central and eastern Iowa on July 17, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry graced two northern Iowa towns on a weekend trip starting July 19.

What was meant to be trips to support the re-election of Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds became a test of whether both Christie and Perry would be contenders for the presidential election in 2016.

“I think it’s obvious both are testing the grounds, especially with their recent past,” said Christopher Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. “They are both testing their chances early to see if it’s going to hang over in their campaign.”

These trips are just a couple of examples that Iowans can expect as 2016 inches closer.

In August alone, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will visit Iowa for the second time this summer. Paul will be back to headline a Cerro Gordo County GOP fundraiser in Clear Lake on Aug. 5. Earlier this summer, Paul was a speaker at the 2014 state GOP convention.

The possible 2016 contenders will keep coming along.

The Family Leadership Summit, a summit for Christian conservative on Aug. 9 in Ames, is chockful of potential presidential candidates. Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will speak at the summit.

“Other potential candidates are expected to visit the state periodically,” Larimer said. “They are really trying to get a sense of how to get voters mobilized.”

Larimer said when the Ames Straw Poll, which is usually held in August in an election cycle year, gets closer, more Republicans will test the waters to see if voters will back their candidacy.

“They still see Iowa as meaningful and are not going to skip Iowa and go to New Hampshire,” Larimer said. “Both are looking at Iowa as an important steppingstone of jumping into the [2016 presidential race].”

Although no political figures from both parties have announced their campaign for the 2016 election, those who have shown interest have not avoided Iowa.

With the general elections nearing this November, Larimer said the possible contenders have a balancing act to not only advocate for the Republican ticket but to also show the potential they could have as president.

“The official reason they are here is to campaign for [Iowa’s Republican ticket], but it is also to appear presidential, someone who could deal with tough national issues,” Larimer said.

This past weekend, Perry not only said he admired Branstad’s and Reynold’s work in office, he managed to plug what he has done in his state — especially with the recent border crisis.

Christie was also quick to speak about national issues.

“All of you are part of the choir for the Republican team in this state, and I’m here to preach to the choir so you’ll sing,” Christie said. “Every place you go, you’ll tell people that you are among the leaders of this state who will be able to look at others and say I’ve met the governor, I’ve met the lieutenant governor … and I’m not only voting for them, I’m working for them.”

Some Iowans are not ignoring what some national figures have done in their own states.

“Both Gov. Christie and Gov. Branstad have a history working with legislators and others that are not of their same party, and for some reason [President Obama] doesn’t seem to want to do that,” said Mark Capfer of Bettendorf, who attended the Branstad-Reynolds’ campaign fundraiser, “A Night at the Fair.”

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