In Des Moines, Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasizes electing Republicans in the midterm elections

In a visit to Iowa four days after President Trump touched down in Council Bluffs, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the state economy would be “devastated” with Democrats in office.


Thomas A. Stewart

Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks at the Second Annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The event was a fund raiser for current governor Kim Reynolds.

Sarah Watson, Politics Editor

DES MOINES — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised a slew of Iowa Republican candidates and told a crowd of approximately 1,000 attendees “good people have to stand up” in a visit to Des Moines on Oct. 13.

She was the featured speaker at the second Harvest Festival, a major fundraiser for Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds. Sanders has been the press secretary in the Trump administration since July 2017. She directed the campaign of her father, Mike Huckabee, for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016.

The White House press secretary came to Iowa just four days after President Donald Trump touched down in Council Bluffs Oct. 9 for a campaign rally.

There, Trump highlighted a White House decision to expand access to 15 percent ethanol fuel to year-round. He also claimed numerous times that Democrats would take away ethanol, a grain alcohol that can be blended with gasoline and used in motor vehicles.

At the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Oct. 13, Sanders praised Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee consideration of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Elections have consequences,” she said. “In nowhere is this more apparent than in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. The way Democrats acted was disgraceful, and it showed that we absolutely should keep Republicans in the state and in Congress.”

Before Sanders spoke, Grassley ascended the stage and said, as voters go to the polls, to “remember Kavanaugh,” which received a standing ovation.

On Oct. 6, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., headlined a major Iowa Democratic Party fundraiser. He give a grave message to Democrats to take the moral high ground ahead of the midterms.

Sanders ended her speech telling a story about she and her father attending a Holocaust museum. In the comments of a guest book, she wrote, “Why didn’t anyone stand up?”

She said Reynolds was a candidate who is “standing up” and “putting herself on the line.”

Republican candidates touted a number of accomplishments, including a $127 million budget surplus and the second-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Reynolds’ opponent, Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell, argues the surplus came at the cost of decreased funding to government services and point to a 2018 ALICE report that found 37 percent of Iowa households struggle to achieve financial stability.

Reynolds, who, when asked at an Oct. 10 debate between her and Democratic opponent and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell, whether she would commit to weekly news conferences, replied, “I do them all the time.”

Reynolds takes questions at events on her public schedule, which is released every week. She hasn’t hosted a YouTube streamed press conference since Sept. 5, when her and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg held a conference based on early literacy.

Her predecessor, Terry Branstad, now the U.S. ambassador to China, traditionally hosted weekly Monday news conferences with Statehouse reporters. Reynolds kept to that schedule before this summer but continues to take questions at events.

In several instances, Republicans praised Reynolds’ performance in the debate on Oct. 10.

“She’s been on the job for eight years at this level, and she has been accessible to the media for the past eight years, so she’s used to answering questions, she’s used to [being] challenged on her positions and then defending them,” Gregg said on Oct. 13.

She hopes to keep her seat come November. The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll between the two candidates fell within the margin of error.