DES MOINES, Iowa — In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News and the LA Times, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman discussed 2016 candidates and issues.
“I get that question a lot…I don’t know specifically about Rubio and immigration,” he said when Breitbart News asked him how Iowans are responding to GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on that issue.
“I will say this much about immigration – my read of the Republican base is that there is one thing that all the Republican base agrees on – that is secure the border, that is an absolute must,” Kauffman said.
“Making a statement on immigration is like making a statement on tax policy … it’s not black or white. You’re not either for immigration or against it or for illegal immigration or against it,” he added.
“I think there are multiple nuance positions and I don’t think any one candidate’s nuance position is going to put him in the running or out of the running unless they are weak on securing the border,” he said.
Kauffman said since Rubio isn’t as well known in Iowa because he is from Florida, he needs to do what Sen. Rick Santorum did in 2012 when he won Iowa — get out and talk to Iowans.
“I mean Rick Santorum has led the way on how to go about getting name recognition,” Kauffman said – adding that through Santorum’s actions, he made it known that winning the vote isn’t about the money.
Kauffman said Rubio must be able to tell his strong story “in a minute” or less, because that’s how quick a candidate must communicate.
“We’re the second most senior state in the nation – you talk about a grandpa story…you got instant bonding,” Kauffman said, referencing Rubio’s personal story about his grandfather.
Rubio was born in Miami, but is a child of two Cuban exiles. His maternal grandfather did not leave America, even though he was supposed to be deported after illegally leaving Cuba without a visa.
For many Americans, Rubio exemplifies the American dream – coming from a father who worked at a bar and a mother who was a maid – to now have become a U.S. Senator and a GOP presidential candidate. However, Rubio was widely criticized by conservatives for his “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that created a pathway to citizenship, with many saying it was a form of amnesty.
Kauffman suggested Rubio – and the other GOP presidential candidates – should use Ernst’s popularity in the state during her Roast and Ride – a fundraising event in Boone, Iowa this weekend.
“Sen. Ernst is doing all the right things,” he said. “Honestly, if you look at what she’s doing – her constituent services, her organization, her votes she’s taking, the issues she’s decided to weigh in on – she is starting out solidly in D.C.”
Kauffman said Ernst has rock star status in the state.
“I think that as long as Joni is popular… I think that being seen in a photo op – if I’m one of those presidentials … I’m following her and I’m going to follow her until I see a flash,” he explained.
“I think that these candidates are trying to let us know that they are here … that they are one of us – that’s what all of them need to do,” he said.
“Marco Rubio was the one candidate that extended his neck and ran the risk of endorsing Ernst while she was still in the primary – so for Marco Rubio it is a no brainer.”
“I mean Marco Rubio took a major risk … if I’m Marco Rubio I’m going to remind everyone I saw this lady – and I know the potential that she has,” Kauffman advised.
Ernst did, however, recently vote for Obamatrade – which has been widely criticized as not being transparent and “fewer Americans express positive views of the impact of trade deals on their personal finances,” cited a recent PEW poll.
Ernst also has a 75 percent rating by the Conservative Review — several points less than Rubio’s rating.