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Strawn: Iowa GOP’s strength rests on trinity of principles
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Republican Party of Iowa, according to chairman Mike Strawn, is a sturdy stool, which needs all three legs to remain functional.
“We don’t need to change who we are to win elections,” Strawn said during remarks to the Linn County Republican Women on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m proud to stand up for the three legs on the Republican stool — pro-family policies, fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense that includes secure borders.”
What Republicans need, according to Strawn, are candidates who can effectively bring that message of three to the people of Iowa.
“Following the 2006 elections and the 2008 elections, just like you, I was tired of seeing not just our candidates lose, but our beliefs and our principles in the process,” he said.
“If we’re going to fix our party, if we are going to fix our community, it starts at the county level, and it starts at the precinct level. It actually starts with candidates that can eloquently talk about our philosophy and how our solutions impact the lives of Iowans. That’s one thing we’ve done a terrible job at.”
Following his public comments to the women’s group, Strawn reflected privately with Iowa Independent on his first two months of service as chairman of the state Republican Party.
“I think one of the first things we did immediately was to improve the way Republicans communicate,” said Strawn, who ran on a platform of increasing party participation with new communication and organizing tools.
He pointed to a newly revised weekly chairman’s report that not only briefs activists on party happenings and issues of contention, but pats deserving volunteers on the back. In the next breath he touted a recent automated phone call to every 2008 caucus attendee, encouraging them to mark the $1.50 check-off on their state income tax returns for the Republican Party.
“Those are things we are doing internally for communication, but we’ve also taken external communication to a much more aggressive role,” he said. “We’ve worked very closely with (Rep.) Kraig Paulsen and (Sen.) Paul McKinley to make sure all of the leaders in Des Moines have a consistent and clear message of not only Republican solutions and philosophy, but even shining a light on, for example, the debacle at the Rebuild Iowa Office.”
Much of what Strawn has stressed during his short tenure as chairman is the use of new technologies, including social networking, for effective and low-cost communication of all types.
“For Republicans, (these new tools) are a win-win,” he said. “Not only is it very low cost, but it allows for us to have an unfiltered message.
“Was (a lack of using social networking and communication tools) the sole reason we lost in 2008? No. But it was likely part of it. We need to be using every tool in the toolbox. It’s insane not to use the technological advances we have out our fingertips.”
The biggest advantage to using technology, Strawn said, is the ability to directly connect leaders with activists.
“When those in the grassroots can see my Facebook status and know that I’m having lunch with the Republican women in Linn County or that I’m standing with a small business owner in Cedar Falls, it really does help individuals to feel connected to the party,” he said. “It just amplifies your presence.
“And these are little things, but, as I said earlier, rebuilding the party is really going to be a ground-up effort. We’ve got some county parties that are doing a great job, and we have others that need to be encouraged.”
A part of building a successful 2010 election season will be an upcoming “listen and learn tour” where Strawn and other party leaders will launch discussions with county groups.
“We’re going to learn what is working and what isn’t,” he said. “We need to do that before we can give our counties a playbook for 2010. We need to talk to the players first.”