DES MOINES, Iowa — Fed up and ready to get off the sidelines, veteran Iowa Republicans are working to wrest control of the state GOP from the evangelicals, tea party adherents and libertarians they blame for alienating longtime party loyalists.
Led by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, these Republicans want to grow the state party — one that ideological crusaders have shaped over the past few years — by bringing back into the fold pragmatic-minded voters while attracting more women and younger voters.
These Republicans say success would be Branstad winning re-election next fall and paving the way for a national GOP comeback in the 2016 presidential election by choosing a mainstream Republican in the leadoff presidential caucuses.
The power struggle shaping up here has begun playing out across the nation. Some national Republican luminaries are blaming tea party figures like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for demanding ideological purity, inciting the partial government shutdown and damaging perceptions of the party across the country.
In Iowa, it took the party two months to sell all the tickets to its annual fall fundraiser featuring Cruz, who led the failed effort to defund President Barack Obama's health care law. The event usually sells out quickly, and Branstad allies point to the sluggish pace as evidence local GOP leaders are unhappy and ready for a change.