For weeks Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann has traveled the state as part of his #UnitedIowa tour, telling activists and media that they’re “ahead of schedule” in coming together for their presidential nominee.
Well, not so fast. If Iowa Republicans are ahead of schedule on anything, it’s the complete breakup and implosion of the party.
Today Senator David Johnson announced he has changed his voter registration from Republican to No Party over the “racial bias of a bigot,” referring to Donald Trump. In a statement he blasted Trump’s “racist remarks” about the judge in his Trump University lawsuit. And Johnson even compared Trump’s successful candidacy to the rise of Adolf Hitler in an interview with The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs.
Johnson did not rule out rejoining the Republican Party, but made clear that he’ll have no part of a party led by Trump.
“If Mr. Trump is the nominee, he becomes the standard bearer for a party that’s on the verge of breaking apart,” Johnson’s statement read. “If there is a profound split, I’ll gladly re-join Republicans who are dedicated to equality and justice for all, and let Mr. Trump lead his supporters over the cliff.”
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Johnson wouldn’t even commit to caucusing with the Republicans in the Iowa Senate. That could cause massive problems for Republicans desperate to retake the Senate, split 26-24 for Democrats. They only need to flip one seat in this year’s election to tie it, two to hold it outright. Johnson could use his new position as a bargaining chip and potentially throw Republicans’ entire plans for a majority into chaos should they be successful in November.
Serving in the Iowa Senate since 2002, Johnson has accumulated years of experience and is no gadfly Senator. He represents Northwest Iowa, the most conservative part of the state, and had no need to distance himself from Trump for political reelection purposes (he’s not even up this cycle).
Johnson even criticized fellow Republicans nationally and in Iowa for being too “timid” to take on Trump’s most outlandish rhetoric. He may have been referring to Terry Branstad, who defended Trump as not a racist yesterday, or Chuck Grassley, who has largely avoided commenting directly on the issue.
“It would help him very much to be elected President of the U.S. if he would be a little more mild in his demeanor,” Grassley told Starting Line on Friday, the harshest words he came up with for Trump during this judge debacle.
With the primary election finishing up tonight, the race to November begins in earnest tomorrow. Republicans in Iowa probably didn’t want this dominating the news as they start to campaign and attack Democrats emerging from their primaries. And if Johnson – a conservative Republican in a safe district – feels the need to leave, there’s no telling which Republican incumbent in a competitive race will be the next to fall.
by Pat Rynard