Simon Conway
Simon Conway
September 11, 2013

Republican Party fall fundraiser weaved the local and international in a power-punch case for a conservative reshaping of U.S. government at all levels.

In a two-hour session Tuesday night at Santa Maria Winery, headlined by WHO Radio talk-show host Simon Conway, a London-born American, an audience of more than 50 people heard arguments against President Barack Obama's foreign policy, the re-election of State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D-Manilla, and traffic cameras in the Des Moines area. Three candidates for the U.S. Senate delivered campaign pitches as well.

All of the messages are vital for Carroll County, said Lyon County Republican Party Chairman Dr. Cody Hoefert of Rock Rapids. Carroll County is considered "swing territory" where Democrats and Republicans have earned success in recent elections.

Local enthusiasm among Republicans will have statewide and even national implications, Hoefert said.

"Carroll County in 2014 is going to be ground zero for that," said Hoefert, who represents the 4th Congressional District on the Iowa Republican Party's State Central Committee.

Hoefert said the GOP believes Muhlbauer is vulnerable for gun-control sentiments the Manilla Democrat expressed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings last year.

"The House seat in Carroll County is going to be one of the target seats for Republicans," Hoefert said.

Muhlbauer represents Iowa House District 12, which includes Carroll and Audubon counties and the eastern part of Crawford County.

GOP officials said they have talked to potential candidates for the seat but released no names at this point.

Conway, whose program airs from 4 to 7 p.m. on WHO-1040 AM, zeroed in on Obama's handling of the crisis in Syria, saying the president had been embarrassingly outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in talks about averting a U.S. missile strike in Syria if Damascus surrenders an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical-warfare agents to the international community.

While the proposal emerged from conversations between Obama and Putin going back a year, an offhand comment from Secretary of State John Kerry gave Putin the opening to spring the idea and seize the Syria debate, The New York Times reported.

"The United States of America right now is the laughingstock of the world," Conway said.

He joked about the potential of Obama sending his Nobel Peace Prize to Putin.

Conway said he has more respect for Putin than Obama from a pure leadership standpoint.

Obama's problem, Conway said, is not exposing himself to enough tough-minded advice.

"I believe the president has surrounded himself with people who say 'yes' a lot," Conway said.

Conway, who also unleashed of battery of criticisms related to the administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. officials in Libya, went so far as to blast Obama for playing golf recently with aides, not members of Congress. The president, Conway contended, clearly likes to hear sycophants tell him, "Great shot, Mr. President."

Some of Conway's strongest comments were reserved for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and possible GOP presidential candidate - one with whom Gov. Terry Branstad had closely aligned himself before Rubio embroiled himself in controversy by helping to iron out a Senate immigration-reform package that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents.

"He is so out of touch," Conway said. "He must have been drinking out of the Potomac."

Conway said path-to-citizenship plans will disadvantage American-born workers.

"They're coming for our jobs, ladies and gentlemen," Conway said.

More locally, Conway said he's working with volunteers to alert motorists to traffic cameras in Clive.

"It's a scam. It's a tax. That's all it is," Conway said.

Ames Republican Paul Lunde, a Harvard Law School graduate and author of books on the U.S. Constitution, described himself as an "Eisenhower Republican."

In remarks about his U.S. Senate bid, Lunde proposed a constitutional amendment to make Social Security permanent. He also said the United States, if it needs to respond militarily to alleged Syrian chemical attacks on its own people, should use drones, and set the timing of the strikes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time Tuesdays through Thursdays so the Syrian people could seek refuge.

Lunde drew sustained applause when he called for eliminating lifetime appointments for federal judges and replacing them with 10-year terms renewable by the Senate.

Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa who played on the last Iowa Hawkeye Rose Bowl team, said his Senate service would focus on debt reduction.

While the military is efficient, all other departments in the federal government are wasteful, said the GOP candidate.

Whitaker was the only one of the three candidates who spoke to raise the abortion issue.

"I'm not afraid to be 100 percent pro-life," Whitaker said.

A small-business man who has been involved with the Des Moines Tea Party and other conservative groups, Whitaker said he believes the IRS under Obama targeted him for audits.

Kuemper Catholic High School alum Scott Schaben, a former car salesman in Ames who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat, said Republicans need to focus on economic and small-government messages - and avoid the sort of identity politics that alienates younger voters, women and minorities.

"You look around the room, most of us do look alike," said Schaben, a Harlan native who is white.

He's concerned the GOP primary will force a general-election candidate too far to the right, allowing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley to track down independent voters.

Schaben also said he can lure voters with an everyman quality.

"I've never ran for politics before," he said.