Bob Vander Plaats announced today that he’s exploring a third run for Iowa governor. He lost in a three-way primary in 2002, and in 2006 he gave up his bid to join Jim Nussle’s ill-fated GOP ticket.
“I think it’s time we had someone with real life experience, real life leadership with real life results,” Vander Plaats said during an appearance on WHO-AM radio. He pointed to his background in education, health care and management as credentials for his likely third gubernatorial bid.
His announcement made me think back to his first campaign kickoff tour in 2001, when he unveiled the head-shaking campaign slogan “Feels Different, Doesn’t It?” Still, despite eliciting early chuckles, he ran a respectable race and nearly pulled an upset.
He’s a decent guy who connects well with voters and understands how to motivate and organize his party’s base, as evidenced by his role in helping Mike Huckabee win the caucuses.
But can he win the Republican nomination? I think the odds are against it at this early date. That said, anything can happen in a crowded primary. And at this point, the field of potential candidates is large.
Here’s my very early and premature GOP Top 5
1. Auditor Dave Vaudt — He’s a corruption fighter in a day and age when people are fully fed up with being fleeced. Exciting? Perhaps not. But competence without flash is a good brand right about now.
2. Iowa Ag Sec. Bill Northey — Northey comes across as likable, sensible and moderate, all qualities Iowans like in their governors. His inexperience is his biggest downside.
3. Chuck Larson Jr. — Young Iraq veteran, former state senator and ambassador to Latvia who led the Republican Party of Iowa back when the GOP actually won elections. He may not want anything to do with running, but I think he’d be a strong candidate.
4. Steve King. I’m not convinced he’ll give up his comfy congressional seat and national bullhorn to run uphill for governor. And I don’t think he’d have much chance in a general election. But as someone who loves a good political soap opera, I’d love to see him try.
5. Vander Plaats — He’s been all over the state as a candidate for governor, Nussle’s mate and cheerleader for the Huckster. People know him. But they also know he lost, twice. Tough to shake that label.
Others receiving votes: State Rep. Christopher Rants, U.S. Atty Matt Whitaker, former Iowa Senate Pres. Jeff Lamberti.
If you’ve got your own list, share it with us.