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From the Wednesday, Sept. 20 edition of The Iowa Standard’s newsletter:

Good morning! It’s been a week since my last newsletter. I apologize. Usually, I get excited to write the newsletter, but this one has weighed on me for a bit and I have to be honest, I’m not looking forward to it.

To quote late-1990s boy band 98 Degrees, it’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do.

OK. So that’s slightly dramatic. But only slightly.  I’m not looking forward to this. It could cost me followers, it could cost me financial supporters, it could cost me friends. But there’s another part of me that says it has to be said.

We, as conservatives, have to have a conversation about Donald J. Trump. My newsletter last week shows I’m not an anti-Trumper, not a Never Trumper, etc. For a long time I have planned to support President Trump personally in the Iowa Caucus.

Here is the deal, we need to really think. I want to share with you my journey on the Trump Train so you have a full understanding of where I am coming from…

I was not a Trump guy in 2016. In fact, Trump’s worst county in the 2016 Iowa Caucus was my home county. He received barely more than 10 percent of the vote. By the time the general election rolled around, I decided the country could not afford four or eight years of Hillary Clinton after eight years of Barack Hussein Obama. So I voted Trump. And I voted early that year. I remember it well because the Hollywood Access tape was released shortly after. Yes, the one where Trump said what he said about grabbing women by the private part.

Suddenly I was less enthusiastic about Trump. But after attending 8-10 Trump events, I saw how much love there was between Trump supporters and Trump himself. Then I saw how “The Swamp” was targeting Trump and his family. Then I saw an election in 2020 that I’ll never be convinced was not stolen.

After all of that, yes, a sense of loyalty grew within me for Trump. Also, shortly after I told my former bosses I was turning in my two weeks’ notice to do The Iowa Standard full time, I received a call from a 202 number. Area code 202 is Washington D.C. It was a guy who worked at the White House. He asked me if I wanted to join the White House traveling press pool for President Trump’s event at Drake University.

That opportunity came at a time when I wasn’t sure what I was doing professionally. Married with four kids, leaving a job with a guaranteed paycheck to pursue this wasn’t the normal thing to do. But this call from Trump’s White House provided a lot of affirmation. Actually experiencing the opportunity was the cherry on top.

There is not a single media soul in Iowa more “pro-Trump” than me. Guaranteed.

But we really, really, really need to have an adult conversation about Trump. And no, I’m not talking about whether he can beat Joe Biden. I’ve already said I have no doubt he can and will beat Biden if given the opportunity.

We need to have a conversation about policy. Not personality — POLICY. There are some people who refuse to allow a critical thing to be said about President Trump. And I get it, there is a deep, deep sense of loyalty among his supporters. I get it. But realize due to this refusal to acknowledge the possibility President Trump isn’t perfect is what leads to Trump supporters — of which I am one — being labeled “cultists.”

Now that isn’t me calling my fellow Trump supporters “cultists,” it is simply the recognition of the perception that is out there among fellow conservatives. The reason this perception exists is because too many of us Trump supporters refuse to acknowledge anything remotely negative about Trump. But the reality is there are negatives about Trump. And another reality in politics is that perception is reality.

If you can’t handle reading anything negative about Trump, then stop here. But I wish you wouldn’t. I wish you would read what I’m about to write and send me a message to let me know your thoughts. It’s that thing we used to do, even when we disagreed or were uncomfortable…I think it’s called having a conversation.

*Trump’s comments on abortion during Sunday’s “Meet the Press” were bad. He called the Heartbeat Bill “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” This isn’t twisted. This isn’t from the mainstream media. This is reality.

*Trump hesitated when Megyn Kelly asked him last week if a man can become a woman. Again, not twisted, not from mainstream media. Here is the link.

*Trump celebrated the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act at Mar-a-Lago with the Log Cabin Republicans. That’s the same bill that Sen. Joni Ernst voted for and was censured by about 20 Iowa counties. If Ernst deserved to be censured for her vote in support of the bill, what do we do about Trump’s celebration of it?

*Trump continues to praise the COVID shots.

*Trump refuses to acknowledge mistakes in his administration’s COVID response.

I could get into more policy, but those are the big five — at least for me. And listen, me admitting those things doesn’t mean I don’t still hold an appreciation for President Trump. Despite all of that, I’d still back Trump 100 percent against almost everyone else in the GOP field.

But even as a Trump supporter, I believe Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a conservative. In fact, at the state fair, I often told people ‘look, we’re not deciding between a conservative and a Mitt Romney.’ I like Trump. I like DeSantis. I could make a case based on policy that both are conservative and I could live with either as President — happily actually.

I’m not saying I don’t still intend to support President Trump in January. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t either. But I am saying I like to think I’m “pro-life” above being pro-Trump. I’m extremely skeptical of the COVID shots and wish Trump would admit how dangerous they are. I struggle to understand how anyone could answer the question if a man can become a woman with anything but an immediate declaration of no. I believe it was right to censure Joni Ernst over her vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, and have great heartburn at the fact Trump celebrated its passage.

These facts don’t have to dictate your vote. But they cannot be ignored either. We cannot allow personality to trump policy. We can’t. I understand why some of my fellow conservatives will remain committed to President Trump. I understand why some of my fellow conservatives will flock to Ron DeSantis.

I get it. I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that I know what I will do yet. But I do know it is more complicated today than it was last week when I wrote that newsletter.

Ignoring Trump’s negatives does not help Trump, it hurts. As Trump supporters, we should want to help him. We should want to make him a stronger candidate. We do not do that by ignoring his weaknesses.

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