Steve Scheffler has served as Iowa’s Republican National Committeeman since 2008. But his involvement in the GOP dates much further back.
Scheffler did volunteer work for Congressman John Kyl in 1971. He has attended every precinct caucus, every two years, since 1972.
“I never missed a county, district or state convention during that time,” Scheffler said. .
He was an alternate delegate to the national convention in 1988. He’s been a delegate to every national convention since.
“Without sounding like I’m bragging too much, probably nobody has been involved in the grassroots stuff longer than I have been without stopping to take a breather,” Scheffler said.
Scheffler has also been a part of the major committees at the national convention. He has served on the rules committee each of the last two conventions, and he plans on doing it again.
Iowa’s leadership is a little more crucial than most states simply because of its status as being the first state in the nation to weigh in on the Presidential primary process.
“It would not be that difficult to lose it,” he said — even before the 2020 Democrat Caucus turned out to have its own issues. “I will never say if you elect me, I promise we won’t lose it, that’s a promise that nobody can keep. But I serve on the rules committee, which is the most powerful committee on the RNC ever since 2008. That’s where the initial discussion has to come out of in terms of what state goes first and so forth.”
There are 56 people on the committee, and 29 make a majority. That decision then goes to the full RNC, all 168 members.
Three years ago, Scheffler said, the Texas state chairman wanted Iowa out of that prime position. Scheffler, though, said he was able to use his many relationships to maintain the status.
“(Committeewoman) Tamara (Scott) and I have worked really, really hard to develop personal relationships,” Scheffler said.
In 2016, before the Iowa Caucus, 15 RNC members from across the country visited Iowa and were shown the ropes.
“We showed them the elaborate setup, took them to caucuses so they could get a feel of the lay of the land,” he said. “We wanted them to feel comfortable with why Iowa plays this crucial role.”
Then, at the 2016 national convention, Scheffler said he played a key role in keeping President Donald Trump’s nomination on the tracks.
Four years ago, Iowa had 30 delegates. If 16 signed a petition and six other states joined them, there could have been a forced rules debate on the opening day of the convention.
“We had some delegates just hellbound,” he said. “They did not want Trump as the nominee. My personal view is 50 percent plus 1, they have the number of delegates pledged to them because of what Republican voters said in all 50 states and six territories. In my view, we ought to respect them.”
Scheffler drew criticism from those who opposed Trump, but said he stood fast. When the day the convention opened, there was an article that stated Iowa was among the states that had signed off on a petition to have a huge rules fight. And there were enough states joining them to really cause chaos.
“What would have ensued would’ve thrown the convention totally off,” Scheffler said. “There would have been a huge, ugly floor fight and at the end of the day, nothing would’ve changed. There were more Trump people on the floor than there were Cruz or Kasich or anybody else. It would’ve been a battle that hurt only to get Trump elected.
Scheffler, who was with RPI co-chair Cody Hoefert at the time, tracked down Scott, Kim Reynolds, Linda Upmeyer and Terry Branstad to brainstorm.
They worked to figure out who needed to be removed from the list to get Iowa back to the 50 percent threshold.
“We worked our butts off in a matter of 45 minutes to get that done before that final verdict,” he said.
Iowa joined two other states in getting off that list, leaving the movement one state short.
“It was probably the most intense 45 minutes of my political life,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t know if we’d get them off the list and I didn’t know if we’d be able to get it done in time. These people were really secretive. I understand when you’re in love with a candidate, but my view is when you’re at convention and somebody has the delegates in hand, I don’t think we ought to be second-guessing what Indiana or New Hampshire or South Carolina did.”
His opponents ran an ad against him on WHO Radio.
“I’m usually pretty soft-spoken,” Scheffler said. “But when somebody tries to intimidate me, those kinds of tactics don’t work well at all.”
Scheffler said the committeeman is not required to do any traveling. The previous committeeman wasn’t overly involved.
“Some people didn’t even know who he was,” Scheffler said. “I made a conscious decision when I got elected that I am going to travel the state.”
He’s moving around Iowa sometimes five days a week.
“I try very hard to communicate with people what’s going on and being accessible,” Scheffler said. “No committeeman has ever done that.”
Prior to being elected committeeman, Scheffler worked with the Christian Coalition. He said he’s traveled Iowa “practically nonstop” for 35 years.
“My guess is I know 95 percent of the activists,” he said. “Only one person in this race has not only those relationships, but those deep relationships that have gone back since 1971. There’s nobody else I think who can even come close to saying they’ve been involved in the grassroots. The Republican Party was the ‘Good Ole Boy Country Club’ when I first got involved, moderates and liberals ran it.”
Scheffler remembers working to get the pro-life plank included in the GOP platform.
“I fought some of those battles and got a lot of battle scars when it wasn’t very popular to be a conservative back in the 70s and mid-80s,” he said. “I’ve fought a lot of these battles when nobody else was around.”
It is critical that Iowa remains first-in-the-nation, and Scheffler is confident he can help the Hawkeye State keep that status.
“Iowa is such a crucial state,” he said. “Shawn Steel, a Committeeman in California, told me ‘Scheffler, I don’t really like Iowa going first, but as long as you’re there, I’m not going to mess with Iowa. If you’re gone before I am, and Iowa’s caucus status is debated, I don’t know what I’ll do.’ I think I have a lot of clout at the RNC and I have a lot of clout around this state.”
Now, entering the thick of the 2020 Presidential campaign, Scheffler said he is a huge Trump supporter, though he didn’t start out that way.
“I didn’t think he would fulfill what he said he was going to do,” he said. “But nobody in my lifetime has done more in my view for life or for religious liberty. Most Republicans lack the backbone to do anything — Romney, Collins, Murkowski — I’ve probably become more outspoken the last few years because I fear we’re close to losing our liberty. I have to do what I can to save this country for my kids and grandkids.”