Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann responded to Donald Trump’s bombshell comments from 2005 ahead of the state party’s Reagan Dinner in Des Moines tonight, comparing Trump’s comments to Bill Clinton’s actions.
“I find Donald Trump’s comments 11 years ago disgusting,” Kaufmann said in a prepared statement. “I condemn those kinds of comments when Clinton did those kind of actions, and I’ll condemn it again when Trump says those kind of actions. I’m going to be consistent all the way through, so hopefully you can see the sincerity in terms of this condemnation. I’m condemning not for my own political expediency or self-gain, but I’m condemning those comments because they’re wrong.”
He continued by admitting that both candidates had serious issues.
“So what we’ve got here in terms of the presidential election, we’ve got two flawed candidates,” Kaufmann said. “Some people would say we have two seriously flawed candidates. Now Americans are going to have to make a choice.”
When asked by reporters about other prominent Republicans around the country distancing themselves from Trump, Kaufmann largely put off responsibility of his role onto the party’s base.
“Republicans receive what the people want to give,” Kaufmann replied. “The grassroots. I have no business telling Iowans what to do in this particular situation. Donald Trump talked to them. He’s going to talk directly to them again on Sunday, and then he’s going to make the case. I’m going to react to what Iowans say. I am one vote of many. To think that somehow my endorsement or my personal opinion in all of this as the party chair matters more than anyone’s else, I think that’s a little bit arrogant.”
Iowa Republican leaders have been particularly out front in support of Trump after he became the clear eventual nominee this summer. Kaufmann himself led a “#UnitedIowa” effort this summer and harshly condemned Republican writers and radio show hosts who strayed from the party line on support of Trump. But he again placed the impetus of that unity on having come from the grassroots when asked whether there were any regrets over the strong embrace of Trump.
“I don’t think we were gung-ho for Trump, I think we were gung-ho for what the grassroots of the party gave to us,” Kaufmann said. “I do not lead the people of Iowa. The Republicans of Iowa lead me … The people control this process, not Jeff Kaufmann.”
He also pushed back strongly on the Politico article that reported the RNC had halted some mailings for Trump and other reports that Trump may have been taken off of call scripts. Kaufmann said he called the RNC directly after getting concerned messages about it.
“There was a run to one vendor of some mail,” he explained. “They stopped that run because, obviously, this is a political campaign, we’re going to have to see how this unfolds, there may be some changes in that mail program. There will be – and I want to be very definitive to all of you – there will be no change in terms of reducing the amount of activity or dollars that are associated with the Victory Program in Iowa.”
He added that the Victory Program helps all Republican candidates, not just Trump, and that any change would be unfair to those down-ballot races.
“There is a difference in opinion in the gravity of what was said,” Kaufmann added on whether other Republicans in Iowa may break with Trump.
Kaufmann repeated much of his statement at the start of his later speech to the crowd of several hundred donors.
“I’m going to cast my vote for Donald Trump,” Kaufmann told them to decent applause and a few cheers.
By Pat Rynard