Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thanked the crowd of potential 2016 Republican presidential caucus attendees at Saturday’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” for praying for him when he was taking away the collective-bargaining rights of teachers and snowplow drivers and custodians in their neighboring state.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz built his campaign list by telling the crowd of conservative believers to text the word “Constitution” to a cellphone number associated with his campaign.
Dr. Ben Carson got heads spinning with his immigration calculus: “There wouldn’t be people coming here if there wasn’t a magnet… you have to reverse the polarity of that magnet.”
And former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum trumped Carson by explaining that he’s not just bothered by people coming to the United States without proper documentation. “We also have a problem with legal immigration,” declared the guy who won the last round of Republican caucuses in Iowa.
So it went at Saturday’s cursory visit with actual voters by at least ten of the all-but-announced candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who are not topping the polls in Iowa—or across a country where Republicans continue to long nostalgically for Mitt Romney or another Bush. It was all good theater, but nothing more.
Everyone knew the real action wasn’t in Des Moines on Saturday.
It was in Palm Springs on Sunday.
Yes, Palm Springs in California—which, it should be noted, is not the first-caucus state or the first-primary state or the first-anything state on the 2016 Republican calendar.
Why? It was to Palm Springs that Walker, Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio traveled Sunday to bow and scrape before brothers Charles and David Koch — and their network of very rich conservative donors. Rubio set the tone for the session by announcing to the assembled billionaires and lesser millionaires that he had no taste for any of the “anti-business rhetoric” coming out of Washington these days.
The Kochs hold their annual winter gathering of oligarchs at a swank resort that is about as far from Iowa as you can get, yet invited presidential prospects are more than willing to fly into the warm embrace of the billionaire class. That’s because, while the Kochs are important, the Palm Springs meeting is about a lot more than brothers Charles and David — especially now. One of two yearly events at which the wealthiest conservatives from across the country come together to meet with rising right-wing “stars,” this year’s winter gathering was held as the 2016 Republican race is rapidly picking up steam.