Politicos wonder which Sen. Lee will show up at Utah, Iowa events

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 10:20 p.m. MDT

Iowa's GOP activists, which include many evangelical Christians and other social conservatives, admire Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for leading the battle against Obamacare, Scheffler said.

There's a frustration, he said, with GOP leaders who would rather "go along than have a fight based on principle. That's why the base has become so disgusted, because there is no willingness to take a stand when the going gets tough."

Scheffler, the Iowa GOP national committeeman, disagreed with Republicans who believe the party will suffer because of the 16-day government shutdown and the threat of the first-ever default on the nation's debt.

"I think that's just a lot of hype right now," Scheffler said. "I don't think Republicans can lay down and play dead."

Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party, said while the more pragmatic members of the GOP aren't happy with Lee and the other tea party members of Congress, plenty in the party look up to them.

"They like these guys because they think Washington is broken and they're looking for someone to fix it," Robinson said. He suggested Lee might have offered some answers in his Heritage Foundation speech.

"We need to broaden our message," Robinson said of the GOP. "I think we fall in the trap of always talking about Obamacare."

He said while Lee's Iowa audience will "want to see the fighter they've been hearing about," the senator could tone down the tea party rhetoric and focus on issues.

"The choice he has to make here is does he want to be viewed as a serious politician," Robinson said, especially as he continues to elevate his national image by appearing in a state that attracts major political figures.

The late addition of Palin to the program may put more pressure on Lee to "compete with her in riling up the crowd," he said, adding that he felt bad that Lee no longer was the star of the show.

University of Iowa political science professor and active Republican Tim Hagle said Lee's message about making the GOP more inclusive would play well in Iowa, a place where people are used to seeing major political figures.

"It's not the 'red meat' thing that will get people fired up," Hagle said. "But it will get people nodding their heads."

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