These days, Spiker’s ascent continues. He was easily reelected to the chairmanship earlier this year with 13 votes on the state committee, and he has helped to populate the state GOP apparatus with former Ron Paul activists, though he likes to think of them as supporters of liberty, rather than of any particular candidate. David Fischer and Drew Ivers, two former Iowa advisers to the Paul campaign, are now party leaders, and several members of the central committee are libertarian conservatives.
And though he’s not officially a member of Senator Rand Paul’s political operation, Spiker is still a prominent member of Paul World — the group of politicos close to the Paul family who are quietly getting ready for Paul to run. In our conversation, Spiker plays down his ties and says he speaks to the senator only on rare occasions. “He came here a few times for his father, and I talk to him when he visits, but that’s about it,” he says. But he does have a frequent, if casual correspondence with Paul aides, such as Doug Stafford, who is considered to be Paul’s top political strategist.
Spiker’s claim of neutrality, however, hasn’t stopped his critics from wondering whether he’s tilting the party toward the Paul wing, especially after he invited Senator Paul to give a high-profile dinner speech in Cedar Rapids earlier this month — the first major 2016-related invitation that he was able to extend. That gesture clarified the image of cozy relations between the new Iowa GOP vanguard and the Paul family, at least among the establishment Republican operatives who once scoffed at all things Paul.
Those Republicans haven’t refrained from blasting Spiker for his association with Paul. Branstad, sources say, has icy relations with Spiker, and several prominent Iowa donors have resisted giving money to a Paul-affiliated party. Branstad and Spiker have also warred publicly and privately over the fate of the Ames straw poll: Branstad would like to see it phased out, but Spiker thinks it’s a great event that helps put lesser-known candidates on the map. More prevalent is general unease about the power of Paul’s army. “The words are fine about reaching out and opening doors,” Schickel said earlier this year, during a speech to Iowa Republicans. “But when our chair, our executive director, our communications director, and our finance director are all from [Paul’s] Campaign for Liberty, that sends a message that is disenfranchising to many Republicans.”
Spiker, naturally, dismisses talk of a conspiracy to ensure Paul wins the 2016 Iowa caucuses. “This is more of a generational shift,” he says. “There is a group that wants to see the party advance, and there is a group that wants to see principles advance, and the latter is where the party is moving.” Regardless, should Paul run, as many close to him expect, he’d no doubt benefit from this Republican sea change. The Paul camp is no longer an Iowa sideshow. It’s running the show, and Spiker’s odyssey is proof.
— Robert Costa is National Review’s Washington editor.