If the top GOP candidates want a shot at the 2016 presidential nomination they will have to win or do well in next January's Iowa caucuses. To win Iowa, the candidates will have to gain popularity with Republican caucus-goers on a broad range of issues. Which issues can they win and lose on?
Since June 2014 Iowan Republicans have submitted more than 1.2 Million answers to the iSideWith Political Quiz. Every user taking the quiz can give each issue a passion score rating of 1 to 5.
Here are the top 10 issues ranked by Republican iSideWith users in Iowa in the last six months.*
*Rankings are based on 1.2 Million answers submitted to the iSideWith Political Quiz since June 2013.
Should able-bodied, mentally capable adults who receive welfare be required to work?
2016 candidates touting a welfare reform program will almost certainly gain traction amongst Republican caucus-goers. Iowa has seen some of the slowest economic growth in the country since the 2008 recession causing the Iowa Legislature to increase the eligibility guideline to receive food stamps from 130 percent to 160 percent of the federal poverty line. From 2006 -2014 the number of Iowans receiving food stamps doubled from 30,580 households to 60,866. (1)
Look for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to make this a big issue if he decides to run this year. He has proposed a number of reforms in his home state including requiring able-bodied recipients to participate in job training for 20 hours a week in order to receive benefits. Look for other candidates to make similar proposals if they want to do well in next year's caucuses. (2)
Do You Support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?
Iowa Republicans in Congress have been amongst the most vocal opponents of Obamacare and their efforts paid off last November when Joni Ernst beat Bruce Braley in the U.S. Senate race here. Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Peter King have said that repealing Obamacare is one of their main priorities of 2015. (3)
3. National Debt
Should the government make cuts to public spending in order to reduce the national debt?
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst made the most popular TV ad of last fall's mid-term elections when she castrated a hog as a symbol of what she would do to government spending. (4) Cutting spending will almost certainly be a popular stump speech topic amongst GOP candidates in Iowa this year. Look out for where the candidates stand on farm subsidies - an issue all five 2014 GOP Senate Primary candidates supported. (5)
4. References to God
Should the U.S. remove references to God from currency, federal buildings, national monuments and other aspects of government?
Support of the evangelical base is absolutely necessary to win the Republican Caucuses here. In 2012 57% of Republican voters in Iowa identified themselves as Evangelical Christians. (6) Pat Robertson stunned the political world when he beat George H.W. Bush in the 1988 Iowa Caucuses. Robertson ran a campaign that focused on his conservative evangelical credentials and emphasized his support for school prayer and opposition to abortion. In recent years Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done well in the caucuses due to support from the evangelical base.
5. Border Security
Do you support stronger measures to increase our border security?
Iowa representative Steve King has been congress's most vocal opponent of immigration reform since he was elected in 2003. King told Politico that the 2016 GOP candidates would have to pass his litmus test on immigration if they want a shot at winning next year's caucuses. Other Republicans in Congress believe a hard line on immigration will hurt the party's chances in the general election. (7) Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona advised pro-immigration candidates to skip the Iowa Caucuses all together. (8)
6. Gun Control
Do you support increased gun control?
Iowa conservatives are already warning Chris Christie that his support of gun control will be a liability if he runs here next January. (9) In Iowa's 3rd Congressional District Freshmen Congressman David Young defeated State Senator Staci Appel in one of the state's most heated congressional races last fall. Appel was backed by an anti-gun Super PAC who ran attack ads against Young. Young was backed by the NRA, which ran attack ads against Appel tying her to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. (10)
7. Immigrant English Requirement
Should immigrants in the U.S. be required to learn English?
Iowa Representative Steve King sponsored the "English Utility Language Act" which required all speaking and writing in U.S. workplaces to be conducted in English. The act also nixed an executive order issued by President Bill Clinton that required all federal agencies to provide translation services for non-English speakers. (11)
What is your stance on abortion?
The Republican caucuses are dominated by evangelical voters and the candidates will have to voice opposition to abortion rights if they want to place in the top three here next January. In 2011 Mike Huckabee hosted a pro-life forum in Des Moines where candidates were asked to sign a pledge stating that life begins at the "moment of conception." Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich attended the event while Mitt Romney and Rand Paul declined to attend due to scheduling conflicts. (12)
9. The DREAM Act
Should illegal immigrants be offered in-state tuition rates at public colleges within their residing state?
Iowa is not one of twelve U.S. states who have passed their own version of the DREAM Act. Undocumented students attending Iowa State University must pay out-of-state tuition even if they grew up in Iowa and attended an Iowa high school. Since 2004 The Iowa House of Representatives has passed two versions of the DREAM act but both were defeated by the State Senate. (13)
Should the U.S. continue to support Israel?
Support for Israel in the evangelical community is widespread in Iowa. In 2012 Ron Paul nearly ran afoul of Iowa church leaders when promised to cut off all foreign aid (even to Israel) if elected President. His campaign stressed that this policy would actually help Israel, since it would also cut off aid to all of its enemies. (14)