Establishment retakes control of Iowa GOP

Establishment Republicans allied with Gov. Terry Branstad (R) have retaken control of the Republican Party of Iowa, a move that will have 2016 implications and could mean the end of Iowa's GOP straw poll.

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The Republican Party's state convention this past weekend was a culmination of months of work by Branstad loyalists to seize back control of the party from a coalition of social conservatives and libertarians, many whom were involved with former Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) presidential campaign in 2012.

The new state board has 16 Branstad loyalists and none from the old coalition.

The GOP state board chooses the next state party chairman, meaning a Branstad ally is likely to get the post. 

That chairman and the board will make big decisions about how the next caucuses are run.
 
Branstad has called for an end to the Iowa Straw Poll, a quadrennial political beauty pageant event that has often drained early resources from candidates, and has promised a hard push to make sure all types of candidates are welcome in Iowa's caucuses.
 
Social conservatives have dominated the process in recent years, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) winning the last two caucuses before going on to lose the nomination battle.

The push is also a loss for Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) organization in the state. Former Iowa Republican Party Head A.J. Spiker left his position as part of this battle to rejoin Paul's organization, and the likely presidential candidate is left without allies in a group that will be deciding many rules of the road for what will be a key state for Paul, should he decide to run in 2016.

Spiker was temporarily replaced by Danny Carroll, who is aligned with social conservatives hostile to Branstad; the board will choose a new state party chairman on June 28.

Branstad has been flexing his muscles in recent years to retake party control. Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst's (R) primary win came partly because of quiet early backing from him — many of his strategists and fundraisers helped her gain traction in the race.