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Essay on Republican Contenders for the 2016 Presidential Nomination

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The Iowa Freedom Summit took place in the last week of January 2015. This event was essentially a forum for several prominent Republican speakers, many of whom have aspirations regarding the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, to address sympathetic listeners. This written sample essay will discuss this event and the strongest Republican candidates who emerged from it. 

The essay will begin with a description of the event itself. Then, it will proceed to discuss some of the key speakers at the event. From this point, the essay will turn to a consideration of notable persons absent from the event. Finally, the essay will reflect on the implications of everything that has been said in the above sections for the 2016 presidential election.

Candidates in the election

It is quite significant that the Iowa Freedom Summit did in fact take place in the state of Iowa. As Dickerson has pointed out:

"The 2016 election may seem like a distant prospect for many people. It is, after all, almost two years from now. {But] in Iowa, where the voting takes place in 12 months, activity is already clicking along at a brisk pace" (paragraph 2).

This is a reference to the fact that the first caucus for the selection of an opposition (in this case, Republican) presidential candidate is always held within the state of Iowa. Moreover, the way events turn out in Iowa is often understood as a barometer of how events are likely to turn out in other states within the nation. Therefore, for 2016 presidential hopefuls, it may well be a key priority to make a good impression in Iowa right now, so that this impression will have positive effects in a year from now and thereby influence the courses of both the candidate selection process and the presidential election itself. 

Although not officially advertised as such, the clear purpose of the Iowa Freedom Summit was to get the contest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination meaningfully underway. As Epstein has astutely noted:

"Proposals that the party adopt a more inclusive agenda were sprinkled amid a heavy dose of conservative applause lines at the nearly 10-hour event, which marked the unofficial kickoff of the Republican presidential campaign in the state that holds the first nominating contest" (para. 2).

To show one's face as a speaker at the Iowa Freedom Summit, then, was essentially tantamount to declaring that one was at least somewhat interested in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. There were also several topics addressed at the even, including the current healthcare system and same sex marriage in the U.S. Within this in mind, it will be appropriate to now turn to a discussion of some of the key speakers who participated in the event. It is quite likely that Americans will be hearing much more of these names over the course of the next two years. 

Discussion of key speakers

Some of the main names present at the Iowa Freedom Summit included: Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin; Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey; former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; Senator Rick Santorum; Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska; and the (in)famous businessman Donald Trump (see Epstein). All of these speakers had stated intentions to capture the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and all had the opportunity to woo the audience of the Summit by delivering individual speeches.

It would seem that many of these speakers sought to convey the message that they would be able to govern the United States in a competent way that could heal the divisions between Democrats and Republicans that have become increasingly severe over the last several years. 

For example, one of the focal points of the Summit for commentators would seem to have been the performance of Walker. As Noble has written:

"Walker described his governance of traditionally Democratic Wisconsin as a model for Republicans nationally, and said he was proof that conservatism can be a general election winner" (paragraph 4).

Walker has also garnered attention not only for the content of his speech but for the apparent passion with which he delivered it. For example, Grier has pointed out that the radio show host Rush Limbaugh called special attention to how Walker ought to set an example for all Republicans. No matter how any given reader may or may not feel toward Limbaugh, it is undeniable that his opinion matters quite a great deal to many conservative common Americans, especially those who would describe themselves as "grassroots" and committed to conservative cultural values.  

Trump also made waves with some of his comments he directed against rivals over the course of his speech. For example, Noble has quoted Trump as saying:

"It can't be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed. The last thing we need is another Bush" (paragraph 13). 

These comments were aimed, of course, against Mitt Romney, who lost to Obama in the 2012 presidential election, and Jeb Bush, whose brother and father have both been American presidents within the last three decades.

Moreover, the news-people seem to be spinning this story in such a way that Trump was merely the mouthpiece for the public sentiment at the summit more generally. In this context, it is worth turning now to some of the notable absences from the Summit. Discussing this point will help develop a conceptual framework that can be utilized in order to more clearly elucidate what the stakes are likely to be in the contest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination as well as for the actual presidency of the United States.  

Notable republican absences 

In point of fact, the two candidates called out by Trump—Romney and Bush—were both absent from the Iowa Freedom Summit. Moreover, both of these candidates are being framed in the news as belonging to the "establishment": that is, to the big money and social networks that are seen to run much of Washington. Dickerson, for example, has pointed out that

"Jeb Bush is setting the pace of the national GOP contest by launching a massive fundraising operation to intimidate his rivals" (paragraph 7).

Likewise, Epstein has written that

"Romney and Bush are considered heavyweights among the party's business-friendly, 'establishment' wing, and their absence underscored a divide in the emerging field between the two men and others working hardest to appeal to the party's conservative base" (paragraph 11).

In other words, the nature of the Iowa Freedom Summit would seem to have been antithetical to the campaigning strategies adopted by Romney and Bush. In a way, one gets the impression that the latter candidates felt themselves to be too socially and politically "superior" to participate in the summit. 

This would seem to be linked to a broader trend within the nation. As Bedard has indicated:

"53 percent of likely voters do not want Bush to run for president. And 56 percent reject a third Romney candidacy" (paragraph 2).

Methodologically, however, this may not be an accurate representation of what Republicans themselves think of the matter, due to the fashion in which the poll was conducted. The poll reported by Real Clear Politics Editors indicates that Romney and Bush are in fact the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination thus far. However, the margins are notably small: Romney only holds 20.7 percent primary support, and Bush is a mere 2.2 percent above his nearest rival.

Given how well-known the names of Romney and Bush are, as well as how far away the actual presidential election is, one must surely conclude that there is a great deal of time for lesser-known names to meaningfully challenge the candidates who have been identified as being affiliated with the political establishment. 

In any event, another notable candidate who was absent from the Iowa Freedom Summit was Rand Paul. This candidate, however, is surely not associated with the establishment; much the opposite, is associated with what could be identified as the activist wing of the Republican Party; and if anything, his absence would have indicated that the Summit itself was too "establishment" to welcome his presence.

As Larison has written, the Republicans have always had a problem with respect to how to produce an activist or genuinely grassroots candidate who is capable of challenging the establishment favorite: "Barring the unification of the conservative vote behind a single capable candidate, the same pattern will repeat itself as it has for decades: the relative moderate will prevail because candidates favored by the 'activist base' are feuding among themselves for the right to challenge the moderate" (paragraph 5). This highlights, from another perspective, the rifts that are beginning to characterize the Republican Party

Implications for 2016

The absence from the Iowa Freedom Summit of Romney and Bush on the one hand, and Paul on the other, likely has broader implications for the nature of the contest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In particular, it is an open question whether the Republicans within the United States will opt for a centrist candidate who would not be very different from a centrist candidate that could be produced by the Democratic Party.

Or whether the Republicans will veer to the right and produce a candidate who is characteristically a Republican and in direct opposition to the policies that have been implemented by the Democrats over the past several years. In this context, Romney and Bush would represent the centrists, insofar as the "establishment" is the common denominator of both Republicans and Democrats; Paul would represent an extreme grassroots candidate; and the others would likely represent something in-between, although perhaps closer to the grassroots pole than to the establishment pole. 

In less ideological terms, it could perhaps be suggested that many Republicans in the nation would seem to simply want someone new. Again, Noble has indicated that Trump seemed to speak the generally acknowledged truth; and while the polls cited above are somewhat ambiguous due to their methods and specific questions, it would seem that at the very least, neither Romney nor Bush have anywhere near a majority of support from Republicans., especially compared to Trump.

Romney already ran for president and lost; Bush cannot possibly be dissociated from his brother or his father. The general impression one gets from the news reports on the Iowa Freedom Summit is that Republicans are craving a fresh face who will be capable of reinvigorating the Republican Party. If they opt for an establishment candidate nevertheless, then this would likely be less out of enthusiasm for that candidate than out of simple resignation over being unable to find anyone better. If nothing else, the establishment candidates would at least be qualified to conduct presidential campaigns, no matter how uninspiring those campaigns may ultimately prove to be. 


In summary, this essay has consisted of a discussion of Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination, on the basis of the Iowa Freedom Summit that happened last week. The essay began with a description of the event, proceeded to discuss key speakers and notable absences, and finally reflected on the implications for 2016. An important point that has emerged is that there is a rift developing within the Republican Party between the establishment and the activists, and that many Republicans would in fact likely prefer an activist, assuming that a competent and plausible one can be found. 

Works Cited

Bedard, Paul. "Voters Agree: No to Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney." Washington Examiner. 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/voters-agree-no-to-jeb-bush-and-mitt-romney/article/2557942>.

Dickerson, John. "Iowa's Early Birds." Slate. 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/republican_presidenti al_contenders_in_iowa_the_2016_gop_field_is_trying.html>.

Epstein, Reid J. "2016 Republican Hopefuls Court Range of Voters at Iowa Forum." Wall Street Journal. 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2015. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-iowa-forum- gop-hopefuls-court-a-range-of-voters-1422162719>.

Grier, Peter. "Scott Walker Gives Signs that He's All In for 2016." Christian Science Monitor. 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://m.csmonitor.com/index.php/USA/DC-Decoder/


Larison, Daniel. "The Next Republican Nominee." The American Conservative. 3 Nov. 2012. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-next-republican-nominee/>.

Noble, Jason. "6 Quick Takes from the Iowa Freedom Summit." USA Today. 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/01/25/6- quick-takes-from-the-iowa-freedom-summit/22323953/>.

Real Clear Politics Editors. "2016 Republican Presidential Nomination (with Romney)." Real Clear Politics. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_republican_presidential_nomination2-5255.html>.



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