Thursday Column — In with a tweet, and lots of questions

So Christian Fong couldn’t wait.

The Republican Cedar Rapids marketing executive kicked off his run for governor with a Twitter tweet. Contrast that with the last GOP nominee, Jim Nussle, who entered the 2006 race with glitzy fanfare usually reserved for presidential hopefuls. We’ve gone from bunting and balloon drops to 140 characters on my BlackBerry.

Nussle burst in with the stature of a congressional power-broker known far and wide. Fong, 32, looks as if he’s still growing into his suit. He’s well-known and well-regarded locally. Elsewhere, he’s a question mark.

And questions swirl. Will Republicans send someone born in the days of disco to the big dance, to go toe-to-toe with the Big Lug? Can Fong’s bid to make history, as the youngest governor and the son of a Chinese immigrant, overcome his troubling lack of an electoral history? Can he convince the agitated right that “progressive conservative” isn’t shorthand for a squishy moderate who contributed bucks to Democrats?

Can a guy whose name rhymes with “wrong” weather the shots he’ll get from seasoned pols eager to take him out?

And will Iowans make a blogger governor?

Many candidates blog. Most offer small treats. Fong blogs in treatises.

Still, for a fresh face, there’s plenty of boilerplate. There are calls for investments and zones and a task force on tax policy. Big government is “too often the problem.” Teachers should be paid more if they meet higher standards. Rural schools are great. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

It’s not all bad. Just not all new. But there are glimpses into how Fong might shake things up.

He warns against practicing single-issue, ideological politics and urges the rejection of a “bizarre stream of conservatism that values ideological loyalty above all.” Fong decries labeling opponents as “extremist” in what he calls a “playground insult war.”

He might want to share that with one of his top backers, Iowans for Tax Relief chief Ed Failor Jr., who recently told a GOP crowd the Democrats’ agenda is Nazi-like.

Fong toes the party line on marriage, but he also wrote this before the Legislature adjourned: “The GOP needs to stop playing political games. Their frantic calls for a marriage amendment, ‘or it’s too late,’ are counterfactual to the realities of how the constitutional process works … let me suggest that turning a moral issue into a political chip is both disrespectful to the people involved and trivializes an important debate.”

But will he say that at a Sioux County soup supper? We’ll have to wait and see.

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