JOHNSTON – House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Friday he believes the relatively slow start of retail politicking in the run up to next February’s first-in-the-nation Iowa precinct caucuses can be attributed to a feeling-out period for candidates rather than concern that contenders are being scared away by strong social and religious conservative factions within Iowa’s Republican Party.
“I think it’s slower than some years in the past,” Paulsen said during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show.
“I think that, with in particular Mitt Romney and him coming in so early and hard four years ago and then not getting the outcome that he really wanted, there’s a little bit of tentativeness. But there’s clearly people coming into the state on a regular basis, and so, while maybe it’s a little bit of a slower start, I think you’re going to see a lot of excitement.
“I think it’s good for the party and, quite frankly, I think it’s good for Iowa. I think it’s good for Iowa on both sides.”
Paulsen said the strong GOP field of candidate who hope to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 is both good for Iowa economically and good for the Republican Party of Iowa to build networks and get more people to participate. “I think it’s hard to quantify until you get on the other end because you know exactly what the year looks like, but I think it benefits in all those ways,” he said.
The GOP House speaker said he believes some presidential hopefuls are holding back to get a better read of the electorate and the political lay of the land before diving into full-blown campaign mode following a fairly volatile 2010 election cycle.
“I think there’s a little bit of uncertainty of where the national electorate is, “Paulsen said. “They sent a strong message that we don’t want status quo government, but I think there is still a little of ‘what exactly does that mean’ especially at the national level I think some of those folks are working through that.”
Paulsen said he thinks concern that Iowa Republicans have moved farther right is probably “overstated,” and he flatly dismissed that the heavy influence of social and religious conservatives has “spooked” some candidates about campaigning in Iowa.
“There’s no question that I think the electorate in general and the Republican Party in part have moved to the right as far as a conservative/liberal type spectrum, but I think it actually has more to do with looking at what’s the right strategy to get to the victory,” he said.