Thoughts of Iowa

Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.

First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP.  Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:

Candidate          Votes      Percentage    Delegates

Ted Cruz             51,666    28%                8

Donald Trump   45,427   24%                7

Marco Rubio      43,165    23%                7

Ben Carson         17,395    9%                  3

Rand Paul           8,481      4%                  1

Jeb Bush             5,238      3%                  1

Photo from Ted Cruz's Facebook page
Photo from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page

Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened.  Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates.  Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night.  Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed.  Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers.  Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar.  And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot!  As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.

Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook.  “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee.  As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.”  In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives.  Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus.  And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.

Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates.  The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks.  After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%.  Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.

Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.

Candidate              Percentage    Delegates

Hillary Clinton     50                    26

Bernie Sanders     50                    21

Martin O’Malley   0                      0

Photo from Hillary Clinton's Facebook page
Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page

Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote.  However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won.  As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.

Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds.  Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed.  While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.

Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley.  It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties.  It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.

Gun Show Straw Poll

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

This weekend, the Rockingham County Fairgrounds played host to a gun show, an event that takes place there several times a year.  It is one of the larger gun shows, or perhaps even the largest gun show in the region.  At this event, the Massanutten Patriots (formerly known as the Harrisonburg Tea Party) held a straw poll for the 2016 Presidential election.  The methodology was quite simple.  As attendees would walk by their table, they would be asked which of the candidates (of any party) they would support assuming the election were held today.  Rather than given a laundry list of choices, respondents were expected to offer their own.  Although some were undecided, that option was excluded from the outcome of this poll.

Unlike other straw polls, this one doesn’t gauge political activists but rather average Americans who have at least somewhat of an affinity for firearms.  Like other straw polls, this one wasn’t scientific either.

Anyway, here are the results:

Donald Trump: 43%

Ben Carson: 18%

Ted Cruz: 15%

Marco Rubio: 8%

Hillary Clinton: 3%

Jeb Bush: 2%

Carly Fiorina: 2%

Mike Huckabee: 2%

Bobby Jindal: 2%

John Kaisch: 2%

Chris Christie: 1%

Bernie Sanders: 1%

Total votes: 93

Given that gun owners are typically far more conservative than liberal and more Republican than Democrat, it wasn’t shocking that a majority chose Republicans.  Then again, there are Democratic gun owners too, so there was bound to be a couple of responses for the Dems.  However, I have to say that I found the results at least somewhat surprising.  Yes, Donald Trump is leading in national polls, but I assumed his numbers wouldn’t be nearly this high.  When I asked some of the respondents why they supported Trump, a common answer was that they liked that he spoke his mind and wasn’t beholden to any particular special interest.

Another unexpected result was Rand Paul.  If you scan the tally, you will notice that Paul and a few of the other declared candidates aren’t listed.  That is because not a single person named him as their choice.  Although Paul is a favorite among Republican liberty activists, winning the Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll in New Hampshire, he seems to be either unknown or not favored among the gun-owning citizens of the greater Shenandoah Valley.  As was pretty much the case for his father’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, so far the Rand Paul campaign has had no official presence in this part of Virginia.  Then again, none of the candidates have had official representation here with the notable exception of the Carson campaign.  One of his staffers was collecting signatures to get Dr. Carson on the ballot outside the gun show and attended the last First Friday meeting of the local GOP.

Although Donald Trump and some of his supporters think that the media is treating him unfairly, and I guess that it is possible that they are, the fact that he is still the most mentioned candidate does much to keep him in the public mind.  As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  Assuming there is at least some measure of favorable or at least neutral press coverage, that maxim holds true in politics.

So, it seems that Trump has actual real supporters among gun owners and is not simply astroturfing.  The question is though, will he continue to maintain his lead until the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire?

A Few Thoughts on Kim Davis

Kim-Davis-1024x664
Photo from Timothy Easley and the AP

Since the story about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses, broke, coupled with her jailing for contempt of court, some of my fellow Christians have rushed to her defense citing religious persecution.

For example, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, two Republican presidential hopefuls, flew to Kentucky to be alongside her at her release from jail.  Mike Huckabee raised her hand in triumph as the song “Eye of the Tiger” played in the background.  The former pastor and governor even went so far as to make the claim (which I believe is shocking) that God “showed up in the form of an elected Democrat named Kim Davis”.

I have to say that I would have liked to discuss this topic in depth on Andy Schmookler and my monthly radio hour last week, but unfortunately other issues took priority.  She reminds me of the Samaritian woman that Jesus met at the well and I brought my Bible into the studio in case I needed it for reference.  Although we weren’t able to tackle this topic on the air, I’d like to share the thoughts of a couple of folks.

The first is by Russell Williams, a self-identified pastor.  Since posting it on Facebook, it has been shared over 125,000 times.  Perhaps you’ve already read it:

Since I am a pastor of a southern Baptist church please allow me to weigh in on the case of Kim Davis, the lady in Kentucky who refuses to issue a marriage licenses to a same sex couple.

First: This is not a case of the government forcing anyone to violate their religious belief. She is free to quit her job. If she quits her job to honor God surely God would take care of her.

Second: This is not a case of someone trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage. If she wanted to uphold the sanctity of marriage she should not have been married four different times. If she is worried about her name being affixed to a marriage license that goes against a biblical definition of marriage, she should not have her name on the last three marriage licenses given to her.

Third: This seems to be a case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the south will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus.

This is why we are losing.
This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals.
Not because we disagree but because we don’t take the bible seriously. If ever there was a case of “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, this is it. If ever there was a “take the log out of your eye” moment, this is it.

We must stop looking to the government to make America a Christian utopia. Our kingdom is not of this world.
We must abandon all thoughts of fixing others and let Jesus fix us.
If we want sanctity of marriage then stop cheating, stop having affairs, stop looking at porn, stop getting divorces. That is the way for the church to stand up for the biblical definition of marriage, not by someone martyring their self-righteous self.

The second arrived in my email inbox today.  It comes from former New Mexico Governor and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson:

Friends,

There are 3,143 counties in the United States.

In each of those counties, a public official is responsible for issuing marriage licenses to those who are legally entitled to them.

As far as I am aware, none of those officials is empowered to deny a marriage license to a couple simply because he or she doesn’t approve of the marriage.

But then there is Kim Davis, the elected Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky. Claiming religious objections, Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She even went to jail for a few days rather than carry out her statutory duty. Suddenly, Ms. Davis is a national celebrity, a martyr, a hero, a criminal or whatever — depending on one’s point of view.

We even watched as presidential candidates literally raced to Kentucky to be the first to join Ms. Davis for a photo op outside the jail when she was released.

It was quite a spectacle, and it isn’t over yet.

Religious freedom is important. It is one of the liberties Our America seeks to protect — and even strengthen. That isn’t the issue, despite what too many politicians would have us believe. Ms. Davis has every right to believe whatever it is she believes. But when she is sitting at her taxpayer-funded desk in her taxpayer-funded office in a taxpayer-funded courthouse — collecting her taxpayer-funded salary, she does not have the luxury of imposing her beliefs on those she is elected and paid to serve — especially when doing so means denying marriage rights that have been confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It isn’t complicated, and her “disobedience” frankly isn’t worth the attention it has received. All over the nation, every day, public officials carry out responsibilities with which they may not be entirely comfortable. How many gun permits are issued by officials who are anti-gun? How many liquor licenses are handed out by teetotalers? Hundreds, if not thousands, of officials and public employees deal with such “conflicts” every day – – because we live in a nation that is founded on the idea that religious or personal beliefs, while preciously protected, cannot be imposed on the legally-protected freedoms of others. The alternative is tyranny.

Even in the case of marriage equality, while Ms. Davis is having her 15 minutes of fame, state and local officials across the nation are quietly and respectfully adjusting to a new, if long overdue, reality, including taking steps to make it easier for public employees to reconcile their duties with strongly-held beliefs.  If Ms. Davis can’t handle the conflict, then she can find another job. No one’s stopping her, and no one is stopping her beliefs.

It’s that simple.

No, this single County Clerk isn’t the issue. The REAL issue is that politicians, including some who want to be President, are using her behavior to promote an anti-liberty social agenda based on the notion that it is OK for government to impose beliefs at the expense of freedom.

This entire episode has reminded me why we created the Our America Initiative in the first place: To fight back against those who use the force of government to erode liberty — through unnecessary laws, overreaching policies and out-of-control spending and taxes.

The millions of Americans who believe government should exist to protect liberty, not destroy it, deserve a voice…

I don’t believe anyone, including elected officials, should ever be forced to violate his or her conscious or religious beliefs.  Although it was certainly unfortunate, several years ago I wasn’t able to take a political job.  The reason why was that as part of my employment I would have been required to sign a document about my own faith that I did not agree with.  Thus, I was unwilling to sign.  If Ms. Davis is unable to give out marriage licenses due to her beliefs, then I do not fault her for it.  However, she ought to either delegate the task to one of her subordinates or, if that is not possible, resign her position.  In much the same way, when this issue came up earlier in Virginia on the other side of the coin, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring ought to have resigned his office rather that actively opposing the Virginia Constitution that he swore to uphold.

When you couple all of these thoughts with the fact that Ms. Davis has been married multiple times and has conceived children with a man (who wasn’t her husband at the time), one is hard-pressed to make the moral claim that she either knows or cares much about the traditional Christian definition of marriage.  Despite what Mike Huckabee might tell you, I agree with Russell Williams and Gary Johnson.  Kim Davis is neither a hero nor is she is a martyr for the faith.

In closing, as I’ve stated previously, who I decide to marry (if anyone) will ultimately be a covenant between myself, that wonderful woman, and God.  Whether I approve of your marriage, or whether you approve of mine, it isn’t the proper role of the government or people like Kim Davis to give or deny its stamp of acceptance.

The Republicans’ Foolish Pledge

Picture from Reuters and Fox News
Picture from Reuters and Fox News

When Donald Trump refused to agree to support the eventual Republican Party nominee for president during the first debate, that move upset the Republican Party establishment.  After all, many worried that, given Trump’s current popularity in the polls, he could end up bolting the party and siphoning away enough voters to lead to a Democratic victory in 2016.

As such, many state parties, including Virginia, considered making each candidate sign such a pledge in order to be included as a choice on their primary ballot.  With the deadline to appear on the “first in the south” South Carolina primary approaching, after some tough decisions, or perhaps merely theatrics, Donald Trump ended up signing the pledge.

If case you haven’t read it, here is the text of the pledge:

I (candidate’s name), affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.

I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.

Think about this pledge for a moment if you will.  It doesn’t pledge any of the Republican candidates to a certain set of principles.  It doesn’t even pledge the candidates to uphold the Republican Party platform.  Instead, it encourages unquestioning allegiance to the GOP and whomever ends up being their standard bearer.

The current field of Republican candidates appeal to different and diverse groups of voters, ones that increasingly don’t have much in common.  Are you telling me neoconservatives, like Lindsey Graham, will support a libertarian nominee?  Will constitutional conservatives, like Rand Paul, support a neoconservative nominee?  Will social conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, support a pro-choice candidate like George Pataki?  Will a candidate who has railed against the establishment, like Ted Cruz, end up supporting the establishment choice Jeb Bush?  Does it matter to any of them if their ideological opposition is elected?

Along those same lines, does it matter to you if the Republican nominee is a liberal… or a conservative… or a libertarian…or perhaps an authoritarian?  Is it important if he or she will work to shrink the size of the federal government…or expand it?  Or are you happy so long as a Republican is elected over a Democrat regardless of his or her positions?

When it comes down to it, do principles guide Republican politicians?  Or, like the Mafia, does blind and unquestioning support for the party and their candidates hold the greatest value?  As long as people like Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have a willing accomplice in the presidency, is that all that truly matters to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party?

11951774_10204377543189733_4022918454679309719_nWill the Republican Party win the presidency in 2016 or will it fall for the third election in a row?  Although voters gave the party control of both Houses of Congress, given the GOP’s repeated failures to accomplish anything of substance, the 2014 election is a decision that more and more citizens are coming to regret.  According to Quinnipac, support for the Republicans in Congress has reached a six year low, with a 12% favorability rating and 81% disapproval.

Given this foolish pledge that the Republican Party has forced upon all of its potential nominees, one has to wonder if the party cares about anything other than gaining power for itself?  And, if principles don’t really matter, why would the American people send a Republican to the White House ever again other than as a protest to express disapproval of the Democratic Party?

Huckabee in Lynchburg

IMG_2780Today, Mike Huckabee concluded his book tour of Virginia with stops in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Richmond.

Unlike just about every other political event, the book signing at the bookstore of Liberty University began early, about a half an hour before it was scheduled.  The line snaked through the building as readers purchased one, two, or perhaps a whole stack of books and brought them to the former governor to sign.  Each had his or her picture taken with the former governor as well.  Some folks drove from a great distance to be there; One woman remarked that she lived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Many of the people who were a part of the tour wore stickers encouraging a 2016 presidential campaign for Mr. Huckabee.  Although there are strong rumors of the formation of a campaign, nothing has been announced officially thus far.

Outside, one could find a tour bus emblazoned with the image of Mike Huckabee’s latest book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.

Although the book signing in Lynchburg seemed to be pretty well attended, one of the organizers mentioned that the gathering in Roanoke had an even higher turnout.  Should be interesting to hear how many people made the trek to Richmond to attend The Family Foundation’s event this evening.

Huckabee Comes to Virginia

9781250060990_p0_v5_s300xJust a few moments ago, I received word that former Arkansas governor, 2008 presidential hopeful, potential 2016 candidate, ordained minister, political commentator, and author Mike Huckabee will be coming to Virginia to promote his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.

His latest work releases on January 20th and so Mr. Huckabee has planned three stops in our state.

First, on January 26th, he will be at the Books-A-Million in the Highlands Shopping Center located on 16700 Highlands Center Blvd in Bristol starting at 7:00 pm.

Next, on January 27th, Mike Huckabee will be visiting the Barnes & Noble at 4802 Valley View Blvd NW in Roanoke beginning at noon.

Later that day, he will travel to Lynchburg to stop by the Barnes & Noble on the campus of Liberty University located at 1971 University Blvd. in Lynchburg starting at 3:00 pm.

Anyone interested in meeting Mike Huckabee should arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time, as he will be inviting people onto his bus to shake hands, take photos, and speak briefly.

For more information, please contact Ms. Terri Moore with Huckabee for America at Terri.Moore@mhfa2016.com.

Social Conservatives vs. Limited Government Conservatives

Scan 60
The front of today’s Family Foundation mailer

When Ronald Reagan was elected president, he did so by building a winning coalition of fiscal and limited government conservatives, social conservatives, and those who supported a strong national defense to deter Soviet aggression and expansion.  Although that coalition seemed to work well during the latter portion of the Cold War, day after day, little by little, it has been breaking into its component pieces.

As one example, today I received a flyer in the mail from The Family Foundation, one of the most active socially conservative organizations in Virginia.  Their featured speaker for Lobby Day this year is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Although Huckabee is admired by many social conservatives, both his rhetoric and his record is troubling to those who support lowering taxes and shrinking the size of government.

For example, as governor he increased gas taxes and the sales tax.  As ontheissues.org reports, “90 tax cuts indeed were enacted under Huckabee; however, so were 21 tax increases, and they far outweighed the cuts. The total net tax increase under Huckabee was an estimated $505.1 million. Not surprisingly, anti-tax groups give Huckabee poor marks, and the anti-tax group Club For Growth has even been running TV ads against Huckabee on this topic.”

As another example, earlier this year Mike Huckabee urged conservatives to “stop the fight” against Common Core, ostensibly granting the federal government a role in education despite the lack of any constitutional authority to do so.

And these are just a few issues; one can find a variety of others that would leave supporters of liberty cringing.

So is the Reagan era coalition of conservatives over?  Perhaps so.  There seems to be an element of the GOP that will support any candidate, no matter how poor on fiscal issues and actually making the government smaller, so long as he or she makes a public statement of Christian faith and decries the evils of abortion.

Don’t get me wrong, social matters are certainly important to many people in Virginia and The Family Foundation has been one of the leading groups in this state.  However, by offering Mike Huckabee, a big government politician, the featured spot on their roster for the annual Lobby Day, have they sent a clear message that these other issues simply don’t matter?

A Little Bit of Huckabee Love

Huckbee, ClintonWhile sorting some old papers today, I came across this item from the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.  Although I don’t believe that this flyer was ever distributed to the public, it is likely one of the most amusing pieces of literature to come out of the Ron Paul campaign.

To offer a bit of background regarding its creation, in early 2008, there was a fear that Mike Huckabee would emerge as the Republican nominee.  After all, Mr. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses with a strong plurality, 34% to second place Mitt Romney’s 25%.  Rush Limbaugh echoed this concern when he said, “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys (Huckabee or McCain) get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.”  If Huckabee could capture the socially conservative South Carolina, that win would provide him with considerable momentum and could propel him to victories in future contests.

The image is priceless.  If you recall, Mike Huckabee served as the 44th governor of Arkansas while Bill Clinton was the 42nd.  The picture suggests that Huckabee, looking for guidance, turns to his predecessor and is rewarded with a smirk and a thumbs up thus giving him the Clinton seal of approval.  Given that many social conservatives viewed Huckabee favorably, if one were to tie him to the morally bankrupt Clinton, it may cause many of them to have second thoughts about supporting him in the South Carolina primary.

Unfortunately for the Paul campaign, due to the previous poor results of Iowa (where he finished fifth), New Hampshire (another fifth place finish), Michigan (where he finished fourth), and the one bright spot of Nevada (where he claimed second), it seemed highly unlikely that Ron Paul would be able to post huge numbers in the next contest, South Carolina.  Therefore, if Paul couldn’t win the state, one theory emerged to work to weaken one of the candidates who might win the state (in this case Huckabee).  Doing so could prolong the process and allow Ron Paul to gain a much needed victory in a later state.

At the end of the day, John McCain defeated Mike Huckabee to capture the lion’s share of the delegates from South Carolina.  Although Huckabee did end up winning a handful of southern and border states in later contests, his defeat in South Carolina likely eliminated any chance that he had of becoming the Republican nominee.

Although the piece pictured at the beginning of this article would have had no effect on the outcome in the 2008 South Carolina primary as it was not distributed, it does highlight the growing fear, at the time, of a Huckabee nomination.  It is simply another interesting tidbit of our political history.