Walker flap exposes GOP rift on Iowa's sacred status

Washington (CNN)Scott Walker's staffing dustup is testing a long-held lesson of presidential politics: Don't mess with Iowa.

Liz Mair, a well-connected Republican messaging expert, resigned from Walker's 2016 campaign-in-waiting on Wednesday amid scrutiny of tweets that were critical of Iowa, the state that will hold the first-in-the-nation caucus next year.
The resignation was especially surprising since she just joined Walker's operation on Monday.
But the saga is more than another mini-drama featuring political players most Americans have never heard of. It's exposing a frustration among some Republicans about Iowa's sacred status as a state that presidential hopefuls are never -- ever -- allowed to criticize, especially when it comes to questioning its role in hosting the first nominating contest.
    Several prominent pundits on the right quickly leapt to Mair's defense. Writers from right-leaning publications such as National Review, Hot Air.com and RedState.com criticized Walker's decision.

    "I was very, very, disappointed in the Walker team for the decision to capitulate to the bullying efforts of the Iowa state GOP," National Review's Jonah Goldberg wrote.

    Rick Wilson, a veteran GOP operative, suggested that if Walker couldn't defend its decisions against Iowa in the primary, that he might not be prepared to face Democrats in the general.
    Overnight, there were a flood of tweets from the right just like Wilsons'.
    Mair wasn't the only voice on the right who has had enough with Iowa. Her ungraceful departure from Walker's orbit emboldened her defenders to express their own anger at Iowa's assumed status.
    "This is absurd," wrote The Federalist's Sean Davis, who worked with Mair on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign in 2012. "Tech vendors and social media staffers have no say whatsoever when it comes to advising a presidential candidate on policy. That's not how campaigns work. This farmland fatwa is especially absurd given the record of Iowa Republicans when it comes to picking presidents. They're straight-up awful at it."

    Davis pointed to the fact that, in seven competitive caucuses since 1976, Iowa GOP caucus-goers have only chosen the candidate who would go on to become president once. That was 15 years ago, when George W. Bush secured 41% of the vote and went on to become the nominee and win the presidency.
    Davis proposed forcing states to compete to go first, instead of embracing a system that assumes Iowa's status.
    "The caucuses have turned into something like a permanent subsidy for the political class of Iowa," Goldberg wrote. "I am no fan of the Iowa caucuses."
    Others, such as HotAir.com's Jazz Shaw, lamented Iowa's stronghold on the system.
    Walker "could have stood up for a fine person who his team had wisely hired and demonstrated the type of conviction and loyalty which the average voter could relate to," Shaw wrote. "Instead, he bent a knee to Iowa once again."
    Walker's personnel choices will probably amount to a small blip in a long presidential campaign, but it may serve as a loud wake-up call to those who hope to continue benefiting from Iowa's political status.