Web site to counter GOP critics in '04


Register Staff Writer

Iowa Republicans have started an organization they hope will become the voice of balance when Democrats seeking to challenge President Bush in 2004 visit the state and criticize the president's policies.

Iowa Presidential Watch, coming to an Internet site soon, will defend Bush and Republicans during the "war of words" that former state Republican Party Chairman Mike Mahaffey of Montezuma expects Democratic presidential candidates to wage in the next year.

"Given our place in the political sun, many articulate Democratic candidates for president will be making the case in Iowa against George W. Bush," said Mahaffey, a member of the group's advisory board. "This Presidential Watch is making sure there's a via-the-Internet answer to that. It seemed to me to be instructive, constructive and politically useful."

Iowa starts the national presidential nominating process with its precinct caucuses, scheduled for Jan. 19, 2004. Bush is not expected to face any Republican challenge.

Iowa Republicans received an e-mail Wednesday from the group asserting: "Hardly a week or even a day will go by without one or two Democrats somewhere in Iowa criticizing the president. We must hold them accountable - and confront them."

The group's fund-raising coordinator, Grant Young, said he is soliciting donations for a political action committee that will be used in part to pay for a Web site, which is expected to be up and running soon, although it has not yet been assigned an address.

Recipients of the e-mail are asked to become a "defender" by contributing $36 or $72, according to the e-mail.

The group's announcement comes as three Democrats who have announced their candidacy for president prepare to visit Iowa this weekend.

"We're trying to start it as a grass-roots Iowa organization," said Young, of Des Moines, who worked on former Rep. Greg Ganske's U.S. Senate campaign last year. "As I talk to donors, people are excited about it."

Gordon Fischer, Iowa Democratic Party chairman, said no Republican group can lure the spotlight away from Democrats in 2004.

"All the excitement, enthusiasm and passion will be on the Democratic side of things," he said. "These Republicans recognize it and are trying to change it, but they won't be successful."