DES MOINES, Iowa — The same rift between insurgent Republicans and old-line party establishment figures that is rattling Washington is also playing out in states such as Iowa, where open warfare has broken out between veteran GOP operatives and the state party chairman, an ally of former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Those veterans want to oust A.J. Spiker, who headed Mr. Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in Iowa, insisting he isn’t providing the leadership the state party needs as it gears up for congressional elections in November and for its role in 2016, when it once again will be front and center for the nation’s first presidential nominating contest.
Mr. Spiker said his critics have been trying to undermine him since he was elected to the post in 2012, encouraging donors to stay on the sidelines until he leaves.
“Nationwide, there is a fight within the party really over the direction of the party,” Mr. Spiker told The Washington Times. “I was the first Ron Paul supporter to ever get elected state party chairman, and it just so happens to be in the first-in-the-nation presidential state. So there is some big, powerful people who don’t like that. What we post on Facebook could impact their bank accounts.”
In Washington, the battle exploded onto the front pages in late September and October, when Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, led an ill-fated campaign to tie continued government funding to demands that President Obama’s signature health care reform law be repealed. A government shutdown ensued and left congressional Republicans embroiled in bitter recriminations.
Mr. Cruz’s opponents agreed about repealing Obamacare but said the freshman senator failed to develop a legislative strategy after rallying grass-roots conservatives.
The battle continued into December’s budget fight, with House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, breaking publicly with outside conservative activist groups that opposed the bipartisan compromise deal.
In Iowa, establishment Republicans are making no secret of their unhappiness with the head of the state party.
Dave Kochel, who has worked as a Republican adviser to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said Mr. Spiker is trying to cover up his incompetence by peddling a false storyline.
“The people at the headquarters, the Ron Paul faction, they want to say it is Branstad and his moderate establishment donor types who want to drive the grass roots, the conservatives out of the party — but it’s absolutely not,” Mr. Kochel said.
Supporters of Mr. Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania are calling for Mr. Spiker to go, he said. “There is a professional side to party mechanics that this group doesn’t understand and can’t institute. They focus on everything accept winning elections.”
The frustration dates back to last year when Mr. Spiker and his supporters outmaneuvered their rivals at the state party convention, handing Mr. Paul 23 of the state’s 28 delegates to the national convention — months after Mr. Paul finished third behind Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney in the presidential caucuses.
“That was probably the defining moment of the libertarian folks who run the state party,” said Will Rogers, head of the Polk County GOP, which has passed a resolution calling for Mr. Spiker to step down. “They had basically snubbed the intentions of the caucus-goers in Iowa by choosing Ron Paul.”
Mr. Rogers added, “It went downhill ever since.”