They say the Big Lug is in big trouble.
“They,” of course, are mostly Republicans eager to soften up Gov. Chet Culver before he makes a likely run for re-election next year. They’re jumping on what they see as his same-sex marriage waffling, his apparently unpopular infrastructure bonding plan and his support for a Democratic tax reform bill they say would raise taxes despite his no-tax-increases pledge.
They point to a couple of polls showing his approval rating tanking, although the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll put his approval last week at a reasonably healthy 55 percent. Another Iowa Poll, however, showed that only 21 percent think Culver is wise in wanting to issue $750 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure projects, the centerpiece of his legislative agenda.
Still, it’s pretty early to be digging Culver’s gubernatorial grave.
He’s an incumbent, with all the financial and symbolic advantages that brings. His support among Democrats remains high, which is concern No. 1 when contemplating re-election. And history suggests that Iowans keep governors around, even governors who don’t fill them with enthusiasm.
Culver is a skilled, savvy politician. But I also think that’s his biggest weakness.
It seems perfectly reasonable to a savvy politician to say repeatedly on the campaign trail that he opposes same-sex marriage but modify that stance once the issue actually hits the fan. Then he personally can be against same-sex marriage and for its protection as a civil right. It’s a pretty nifty political maneuver.
It’s good strategy to be a tough death penalty supporter without actually doing anything to anger capital punishment opponents. Telling flood victims you’ll call a special legislative session, only to back off when the political winds shift, is how the game is played.
Trouble is, most Iowans don’t think in terms of good political strategy, so skillful dodges and weaves don’t always impress. Folks just get confused when someone says one thing and does another, or nothing.
It took him four days to have an opinion on the same-sex marriage court ruling. And the stand he finally took was reasonable and even admirable, in my view. It was simple and sensible, so much so that it’s astounding it took him so long to find it. It easily could have been his viewpoint from the very first time he was asked about the issue.
But that’s not Culver’s style. You don’t get pinned down. You adapt. In dodgeball, moving targets don’t get hit as easily.
Republicans look at this stuff and salivate, yet it’s all meaningless if they don’t find a quality rival. And if they make their primary campaign into a same-sex marriage outrage festival, that won’t happen.
They need someone who can chart a clear path to economic growth, who has an actual, balanced plan to reform property taxes and who cares about public schools beyond despising the teachers’ union.
Nominate someone who answers every question with “tax cuts” and who wants to mess with our private lives, and we’ll stick with our Lug, dodges and all.