Tag Archives: Terry Branstad

ChetChase 2010 – The Week

It was a very active week in the race to become your Iowa governor.

Party of Five — Five Republican gubernatorial candidates/near-hopefuls/explorers met in a forum sponsored by Iowa Politics.com. If you couldn’t be there, I was not, Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson graciously posted the audio here.

There were gobs of agreement between Bob Vander Plaats, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts, Jerry Behn and Christian Fong. Another possible possibility, Paul McKinley, had a conflict and couldn’t make it.

They’re not crazy about the smoking ban, but nobody showed much interest in relighting that coffin nail.

Casinos? No more needed. State Budget? Chet messed it up big time. Medical marijuana? No thanks, although Sen. Behn, R-Boone, did wax nostalgically about the days of kinder, gentler pot. That’s just what he heard, anyway.

Speaking of nostalgia, the candidates were asked whether they’d welcome former Gov. Terry Branstad in the race. Polls show the old guy is still fly with folks who still use the term “fly.”

Here is the candidates’ composite answer, “I’d welcome such a fine statesman’s ideas. But, please, don’t dilly dally. Oh, and I’d just like to say future, future, future, future, future and, in conclusion, future.”

I wrote about the Branstad saga.

Kathie Obradovich did a better job here.

There were some disagreements at the forum. Rep. Roberts, R-Carroll, was the only one who doesn’t favor reinstating the death penalty. And although they all dislike gay marriage, only Vander Plaats thinks you can stop it with a magical/illegal executive order.

I guess Vander Plaats hasn’t explained to his rivals just how much fun impeachment would be.

So who won? You got me. Fong showed that he can hold his own and doesn’t need any training wheels. Rants had the best command of the issues. Vander Plaats didn’t stumble, but he also didn’t offer much evidence to prove why he’s the clear front-runner at this early date.

2. Roberts Fails to Tweet — What’s up with Rod Roberts, thinking he can get into the governor’s race with a thougthful speech to a room full of supporters that was all wordy with bio and viewpoints and stuff. Doesn’t he know he was supposed to send out a tweet?

Roberts does have a Web site, with a cool flag that waves. Neat!

3. That’s not My Name — Christopher Rants, who did tweet his announcement, is now Chris Rants, for the purposes of running for Iowa’s highest office. And he has a new Web site. It’s orange and blue, like the national champion Florida Gators. No waving flag, but there’s an odometer to show you how fast he’s wearing out his car.

He Chris, time for an oil change!

4. If I had $100,000 — I’d send out a press release, just like Christian Fong did earlier this week. His campaign reports raising that tidy sum in just its first three weeks of existence.

So who gave him the money? It’s a mystery that won’t be solved until disclosure supports are filed in January. Suspense is already building.

Perhaps the whiz kid will  use some of that scratch to finish his Web site.

5. Chetanooga Choo Chooo — Gov. Chet Culver will be riding the rails Sunday to officially promote passenger rail service. Any resemblance to a campaign whistle stop tour is completely coincidental.

Culver also started handing out I-Jobs bonding dollars for road and bridge projects. But then some pesky economists interviewed by The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth questioned whether the huge program would actually stimulate anything.  

What? The governor couldn’t hear that over all the train noise. Sorry.

Retrolection 2009 — Democrat Harold Hughes and Republican Robert Ray were the big winners in last week’s retro gubernatorial primaries.

Hughes took 48 percent of the vote, holding off Tom Vilsack with 26 percent. Herschel Loveless and Ansel Briggs tied for third. Culver was 5th.

On the GOP side, Ray took 40 percent to Branstad’s 29. Samuel Kirkwood got 15 percent.

That sets up a dream Ray-Hughes match up.

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Column — Republicans Thinking Retro

Republicans trying to figure out how best to chase Chet from Terrace Hill are feeling nostalgic yearnings.

They’re thinking about going back to the ’90s, when one of their guys held the veto pen and the ribbon-cutting scissors and could call out the National Guard.

That guy was Terry Branstad. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to put that four-term band back together for a 2010 encore.

A poll commissioned by TheIowaRepublican.com showed Branstad clocking Democratic Gov. Chet Culver 53-37. Culver beats GOP hopefuls such as Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants. But a retro rival could take him down.

“I learned a long time ago that you never want to say never. But my focus is here at Des Moines University,” Branstad, DMU’s president, said Monday. “It’s flattering. But you know, a poll is a poll.”

There’s just enough wiggle room there to make this intriguing. But is this really the way Republicans want to go?

It’s always tempting for a party lost in the weeds to look backward to get its bearings. Democrats went through it earlier this decade. That sentimental journey led many to think a back-to-the-future presidential candidate such as Hillary Clinton would be just the ticket. Early polls confirmed their leanings. The Clinton brand was still unbeatable.

But elections are about what’s next, not about nostalgia. Clinton found that out. Branstad could get the same lesson.

He would be formidable and favored early, but it’s unlikely that the growing sea of GOP candidates would simply part to make way for a Branstad candidacy. The former governor would almost certainly find himself surrounded in a competitive primary and beset by fresher voices, hungry to be the future of the party.

Frankly, a noisy primary focused squarely on the future is what the Republican Party in Iowa needs. And when the dust settles, Republicans should present Iowans with a new release, not an ’80s classic.

I came of age during the Branstad years and covered the final two years of his tenure. He understood Iowa, had sound political instincts and is still widely admired.

But his 16 years were also marked by serious budget problems and ugly fights with lawmakers, even after the GOP took control of the Legislature in 1996. The Branstad years weren’t all sunshine and cupcakes, no matter how good they look in the rearview mirror.

And in 2010, Republicans will be better off keeping their eyes on the road ahead.

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ChetChase 2010 – The Week

This week’s developments in Iowa’s race for governor.

1. Vander Poll— TheIowaRepublican.com continued releasing tasty tidbits from its  612-part poll, including numbers that showBob Vander Plaats leading the big ‘ol field of GOP hopefuls and potential hopefuls. Vander Plaats got support from 46 percent of Republicans polled, followed by Don’t Know at 27 percent and state Rep. Christopher Rants at 14 percent.

Vander Plaats was happy to grab front-runner status. John Deeth says that’s good news for Culver. Bleeding Heartland says, not so fast, it’s too early to be doing any anointing.

The TIR poll also showed Vander Plaats and Rants within striking distanceof Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in early head-to-head match ups. Culver led Vander Plaats 48-39 and beat Rants 46-36.

2. Parental Supervision— Republican candidate Christian Fong announced this week that Marlys Popma, a veteran Republican activist, will be guiding his upstart campaign.

The good news is that Popma lends some conservative heft to Fong’s fledgling effort. She’s got church cred with the religious right and could help Fong convince some skeptical conservatives that he’s the real deal, even though he contributed to a few Dems and says Republicans shouldn’t emphasize the whole gay marriage thing.

Popma also worked for Phil Gramm, Gary Bauer and John McCain, so she doesn’t always pick a winner.

3. Republican Roberts Reveals Readiness — State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, has called a Statehouse press conference Tuesday, apparently to jump into the governor’s race. He’s an ordained minister who has served five terms in the House. And he promises to add a dose of much-needed alliteration to the campaign.

4. Fallon Out of Lug Love — Former state rep. and failed governor/congressional candidate Ed Fallon says Culver is in trouble unless he dances cheek-to-cheek with the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Some flowers might also be nice. Maybe a spa day.

Fallon contends Culver has sidestepped issues such as campaign finance reform that are important to liberals. Fallon also contends that although it’s nice to be important, it’s also important to make your former rivals feel important.  He laid out his arguments in an an op-ed piece:

Few leading Iowa Democrats will admit it publicly, but Governor Culver is in deep trouble. If something doesn’t change, and soon, he could be the first incumbent Iowa Governor ousted from office since Norman Erbe lost to Harold Hughes in 1962.

Gov. Erbe could not be reached for comment.

5. Nostalgia Polling— TheIowaRepublican also jumped in the wayback machine, releasing polls on how a 2006 rematch between Culver and Republican Jim Nussle would look today. They also matched up Culver against former Gov. Terry Branstad. There’s been some buzz lately that Branstad might try for a comeback.

Culver edged Nussle, but a Branstad reunion tour pasted Culver 53-37.

That gave me the idea to do some legacy polling of my own. This week, you can vote in the Republican and Democratic nostalgia primaries. Next week, the general election.

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Tuesday Column — Culver Visits Denial

Misplacing a governor is never good, as we’ve learned in recent days.

You think he’s hiking and it turns out he’s crying in Argentina. So it’s important for Iowans to keep track of our governor, for his sake and ours.

So where is Gov. Chet Culver?

“It’s just like he’s in a state of denial,” said former Gov. Terry Branstad, who, after serving four terms, is an authority on governor tracking.

But I’m not familiar with Denial. Maybe it’s somewhere between Manly and Fertile.

A second opinion?

“He’s living in Fantasyland,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican making his third try to become a located governor.

It turns out Denial and Fantasyland are suburbs of Whopping Budget Mess. And that’s what our governor is sitting in the middle of right now. I suspect he’d rather be in Argentina.

He insists everything’s fine. Nothing to see here, all is well. But the numbers won’t go away.

Revenues are plunging. Conservative estimates say lawmakers will face a $903 million budget shortfall in January, more than double what the state has in reserves. The budget year that ends at midnight tonight is probably well into the red. The budget that takes effect Wednesday is likely far too big to be sustained. It’s time to start scouring ditches for cans.

Culver may be forced to call a special legislative session later this summer or early this fall to plug the most immediate leaks. He’s desperate to avoid that, so he’s fudging the numbers and hoping for the best. This is especially rich political theater around here. Massive flooding doesn’t rate special legislative attention, but lousy arithmetic is another matter.

It’s a critical stretch of Culver’s governorship. The budget could be his biggest vulnerability. And someone needs to tell him that it’s way too late for “everything’s just dandy!” We expect a reality-based response when it comes to our government and our money.

The reality is things are bad and getting worse. “It makes one wonder if he really has a handle on what’s going on,” said state Rep. Christopher Rants, a GOP candidate for governor.

Another former governor, Tom Vilsack, was back last week. And that reminded me of the last budget crisis. Vilsack was no stranger to big spending and fiscal shuffling, but when the budget collapsed, he played it straight, took control of the situation and projected competence.

That’s why, when Doug Gross tried in 2002 to label Vilsack as a reckless spender, it didn’t stick.

Culver needs to show competence at this moment, or the charges are going to start sticking. He’ll be in Big Political Trouble. That’s just down the road from Denial.

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