Iowa Republicans eager for 2012 race to kick into gear

March 27, 2011

By Mark Preston, CNN

Des Moines, Iowa — In a northeast suburb of this capital city, more than 250 politically active Iowans gathered Saturday to talk about hunters’ rights and wildlife conservation.

Safari Club International’s state chapter hosted an exposition and conducted seminars at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona — an event capped by a banquet and auction in the evening. It was a gathering tailor-made for retail politics. At least 25 county coordinators for the 2008 John McCain-Sarah Palin Iowa presidential campaign operation attended the event and Dave Funk, past president of SCI’s state chapter, said many more people were caucus-goers. And not just any caucus-goers — conservative caucus-goers.

But not one of the dozen or so potential GOP presidential candidates appeared at the banquet — passing on a chance to speak directly to these politically influential Iowans.

At the same time the SCI event was happening, another gathering, this one explicitly political, was taking place in a hotel ballroom in Des Moines. The daylong “Conservative Principles” conference had panel discussions on “Family Values” and “Healthcare Repeal” and featured five Republicans — all seriously eyeing White House bids — explain their vision for the country in 15-minute addresses.

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