GOP hopefuls avoid UI campus

FILE+-+In+this+Aug.+6%2C+2015%2C+file+photo%2C+Republican+presidential+candidates+from+left%2C+Chris+Christie%2C+Marco+Rubio%2C+Ben+Carson%2C+Scott+Walker%2C+Donald+Trump%2C+Jeb+Bush%2C+Mike+Huckabee%2C+Ted+Cruz%2C+Rand+Paul%2C+and+John+Kasich+take+the+stage+for+the+first+Republican+presidential+debate+in+Cleveland.++Eleven+top-tier+Republican+presidential+hopefuls+face+off+in+their+second+prime-time+debate+of+the+2016+campaign+Sept.+16%2C+in+a+clash+between+outsiders+and+establishment+candidates+under+a+cathedral+of+political+conservatism.+%28AP+Photo%2FAndrew+Harnik%2C+File%29
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GOP hopefuls avoid UI campus

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland.  Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

AP

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

AP

AP

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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By Rebecca Morin
[email protected]

“President Paul” echoed throughout the IMU as a crowd of nearly 600 surrounded Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., following the announcement of his presidential campaign.

That was in April.

Since then, none of the now 15 major Republican presidential candidates have visited the University of Iowa campus — which is to be expected.

Despite efforts from Republicans in Johnson County in addition to the campaigns themselves, candidates will continue to avoid Iowa City.

Timothy Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science, put it in simple terms: It’s hard to get results here.

Iowa City is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, liberal communities in Iowa, and it is easily the largest city in Johnson County.

There are more than 37,300 registered Democratic voters in the county, compared with the nearly 17,500 registered Republicans, as of September, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office website. There are approximately another 31,000 registered voters who identify as no party but who lean liberal, Hagle said.

Six-term Republican Gov. Terry Branstad did not win a majority of votes in only one county among Iowa’s 99: Johnson County.

Hagle said, however, in avoiding Iowa City, candidates lose the college-student demographic.

“Students are untapped voters,” he said, noting that GOP campaigns tend to avoid them because they are not reliable. “To really reach out to students, even if it is a campus that seems very liberal, it’s worthwhile to have Republicans talk and show up for an event.”

And mainly one Republican campaign is trying to hone in on that base in Iowa City.

Steve Grubbs, Paul’s chief Iowa strategist, told The Daily Iowan Johnson County is a major component of the campaign strategy.

“We believe one of the legs on our stool is students,” Grubs said, declining to name the other three. “Rand Paul has consistently gone to places that Republicans don’t typically go to — Berkeley, Detroit, and Iowa City.”

Paul is one of the only top-tier candidates to visit Iowa City and Johnson County.

In the latest CNN/ORC poll, 4 percent of Republicans surveyed said Paul would be their first choice. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump led the poll with 24 percent, followed by Carly Fiorina with 15 percent.

Hagle said former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father and a presidential candidate in 2008, ignited the libertarian wing in Iowa during that election cycle, which appealed to some young people.

“Ron Paul really energized those folks, and Rand Paul is trying to energize that same base,” Hagle said.

The UI Students for Rand is one of a few Republican student groups on campus, and it has been the only one to successfully bring in its candidate.

Grubbs said he has a strategy to get students out to caucus but said it was a secret.

“I can’t have every other campaign knowing the secret sauce,” he said.

Most recently, however, there have hardly been any candidates who have made their way to Iowa City more than once.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has consistently polled in the single digits or below 1 percent, has been one of the few Republican candidates to visit Johnson County several times.

In March, Graham held a meet-and-greet at Mondo’s Draft House in Coralville as part of a series the city was holding to bring in as many presidential candidates as it could. Roughly 25 people attended the event, with many attendees being older; there were hardly any students there.

Graham returned in July for a meet-and-greet at Midtown 2 restaurant, 1069 Highway 1 W.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has also polled in the single digits or bellow 1 percent, has also made his way to Iowa City and Coralville several times.

Jindal will return to Iowa City for a town-hall meeting at the Celebration Farm, 4696 Robin Woods Lane N.E. on Sept. 30.

The two candidates, however, have not visited the university campus.

The Jindal and Graham campaigns did not respond to the DI about their Johnson County campaign efforts before the time of publication.

Janelle Smithson, the head of the UI College Republicans, said the group has reached out to the campaigns and has also been contacted by most campaigns and even had representatives from campaigns go to the group’s meetings.

“I sincerely wish candidates would make stops at the University of Iowa more frequently,” she said. “Rand Paul made a stop here, and he had a great reception. I think other candidates would as well; it would be another great opportunity to reach out to millennials.”

Though school has been in session for almost a month, the first Republican candidate stopping by Iowa City will occur Saturday.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is rising in popularity, will attend a tailgate at the Iowa-North Texas game.

Fiorina’s campaign told the UI College Republicans about the event beforehand, and the group plans to get the word out.

Though it may seem bleak, Hagle said, more Republicans are coming to Johnson County than they have in the past.

“Time will tell whether or not we see more candidates stopping by in the future, but I am hopeful we will,” Smithson said.

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