Thompson: Sam wants to turn principles into policy

(Prezography photo)

(Prezography photo)

By John Thompson
State Central Committee Member
Republican Party of Iowa


I woke up late morning to my campaign manager desperately trying to get in touch with me. I had been up until almost sunlight the night before preparing and my phone had been buzzing on silent for a few hours.

It was two days before the Republican Party of Iowa State Convention where I expected to compete for State Treasurer as the only candidate. I was in for a tough race against a three decade incumbent. I knew I would run as hard as I could and the Democrat would run as hard as he had to. Regardless of the chances, I had spent some time in my graduate research modeling data for electioneering. I knew it would be a good opportunity to use my committee to help the Republican Party of Iowa organize data and communication.

I answered the phone and my campaign manager told me that somebody had run a hit piece on me based on phony complaints by my ex-wife. I read the article and called my friend, Dr. Sam Clovis.

He told me bluntly, “John, you are a West Point graduate and that’s not for nothing. People know the integrity that represents and it means more than the angst of an angry ex. Go out there and give the speech of your life and you will be fine!”

Sam and I had met at a Republican dinner in Des Moines during his Senate race. I had flown back from grad school in Boston. Senator Kerry had stepped up to Secretary of State causing a chain reaction that led to an open House seat in Massachusetts. I was taking an electioneering class and my professor assigned the class to assist the candidates.

I was not excited about supporting anybody in a progressive election so my Professor allowed me to work for one of the Iowa Senate candidates. Sam and I were both Military Academy graduates and had a lot of similar experiences. Despite a transition into politics, we both still thought like military officers.

We understood a different kind of loyalty that was much stronger than political alliances. We always assessed our assets, options and calculated risk. We objectively made the best choice in any given situation. We immediately struck up a friendship. I called my State Treasurer campaign manager back and told him I had talked to Sam and I would continue to whip delegates and prepare for convention.

Within the next few hours Sam got a few more telephone calls. He started to figure out what was going on. The social conservatives were being leveraged for a fight against the Liberty crowd. He called me back upset that it seemed we were being used.

CLICK HERE to read “Iowa’s Cold War” to learn more about the Iowa GOP Establishment’s war against liberty and Christian conservatives in their own ranks.

I told him, “You should do it, Sam. You are already better known and you may actually have a chance at winning. I was just running to help organize the ticket and grow a database we could use to win future elections. I can do that working for your committee.”

Sam said, “If you are OK with that I will do it. But keep quiet about it. I don’t like how this went down and you need to introduce yourself to Iowa. Don’t just drop out. Give your speech first. Talk about the pension reform subjects that may create friction among Republicans. Let them know who you are!”

The State Convention was not a fun day. I had many pledged delegates and many more wanted to talk to me. A former field representative for Sam’s Senate campaign helped me stage my table and I quietly stayed in the corner with my literature and signs. The contest between Sam and I was the only conflict for the afternoon so I knew it was anticipated. I also knew that in order for Republicans to have a shot at the State Treasurer office we would need to shore up the coalitions.

Instead of accepting the nomination I discussed the impending peril of continued policies with our state resources and then endorsed my friend and fellow veteran, Col. Sam Clovis. Sam read over my policy briefs, budget and campaign strategy. A few presidential candidates offered to give us endorsements or do commercials. Rick Perry’s PAC actually gave us money.

We calculated how much it would cost to actually win the office and it did not seem feasible. Instead of running a losing race for treasurer we decided to run a Republican race to rally the base and ensure the GOP won the open Senate seat. Iowan incumbents don’t go away. We could not allow Braley (or is it Bailey?) to win.

We spent the next few months headlining and participating in county dinners and assisting local and legislature candidates. We organized field staff and assisted other down-ballot candidates. On election night we saw miracle numbers across the country; but election night was more of a Hail Mary for the State Treasurer race. We picked up the Senate seat.

Despite all of Sam’s accomplishments, he realized that the upcoming presidential race was likely the best opportunity he would have in his life to make the world better. He needed to act early and deliberately if he was to influence the outcome. Months later, all of the presidential candidates were asking Sam to sign on to committees. They offered him money and new influence.

He was firm on his principles and looking to back a winning team; he wanted one that would actually move the needle on policy to the right. He’s been retired from the Air Force for a long time but decided like a military officer. After carefully vetting the candidates, he narrowed it down to Trump, Cruz, Fiorina, Jindal and Perry.

Perry’s potential seemed great. He had been campaigning nearly a year and already had staff on the ground. As a fellow military officer he thought like Sam. He also was grateful that Perry had assisted his committee when no others would. Many of Sam’s friends and volunteers had already signed up early with Donald Trump but he chose to support Governor Perry.

Rick Perry’s committee had a fundraising hiccup and he wasn’t polling well despite his aggressive field organization. Eventually the committee told the staff they could accept positions with other campaigns. Sam had spent two years away from his wife trying to make a difference in the state and the nation.

Once again he found himself in a position where he was working hard but it seemed he would not have much impact. The PAC would likely be taking over his role without him. He met his obligation to Governor Perry and had been released to pursue his goals. Sam’s goals are to turn his principles into policy.

Sam is loyal to a fault. His priority is to turn his principles into policy. When he makes a decision he assesses his assets, options and calculates his risk. He then objectively makes the best choice.

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John Thompson of Jefferson is a graduate of West Point and Harvard University. He serves on the State Central Committee for the Republican Party of Iowa. Opinions are his own. To provide feedback, contact him at or at John Thompson for Iowa on Facebook.