(National Journal) On a sunny Saturday morning in early March, Bob Vander Plaats walked into the West Des Moines Marriott with a chip on his shoulder. Iowa's evangelical shot-caller had come to meet with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was in town for the Iowa Ag Summit, a cattle call that drew the majority of Republican presidential hopefuls. Over the course of the weekend, Vander Plaats had sit-downs scheduled with just about all of them. But not Jeb Bush.
A twice-failed gubernatorial candidate who helped boost Mike Huckabee to victory in the 2008 caucuses, Vander Plaats has grown accustomed to presidential aspirants lining up to kiss his ring, and his group, the Family Leader, has yet to choose a candidate for 2016. But when Bush's team planned the former Florida governor's first trip to Iowa in 15 years, no time was set aside for Vander Plaats—or for any of Iowa's other prominent Christian conservatives. The snub had left Vander Plaats stewing.
So who did he see when he walked into the Marriott lobby on Saturday morning? Bush himself—accompanied by David Kochel, the longtime Iowa Republican strategist who's been tapped to run Bush's national campaign. Kochel leaned over to the candidate, and after a nod and a whisper, the two sprung up and made a beeline for Vander Plaats.
Advertisement - story continues below