I’m so disappointed in Terry Branstad. I had a post in my head about why he won’t get back into politics and was all set to write it when he scooped me by telling the Des Moines Register that he won’t run against Governor Chet Culver next year.
It’s a smart move for Branstad. He served four terms as governor already and has a good job as president of Des Moines University. Why give that up to seek the Republican nomination, which would be far from a sure thing?
I know, a recent Republican poll showed that
Nearly half of likely Iowa voters said they wanted their next governor to be a lot or somewhat like Branstad [….] About a third said they wanted someone somewhat or very different from Branstad.
A generic GOP candidate described in the poll as “a widely respected, former statewide elected official who has managed Iowa through troubled times before” rated highest in the poll. Branstad’s tenure coincided with the Iowa farm crisis of the 1980s.
Despite those poll findings, I don’t think Branstad would have had a smooth ride in the GOP primary. As a three-term sitting governor he nearly lost the 1994 primary to Congressman Fred Grandy. I bet a lot of Republicans wish they could have that one back—with Governor Grandy as an incumbent Iowans probably would not have elected Tom Vilsack or any other Democrat in 1998.
In the middle of his fourth term as governor, Branstad backed Lamar Alexander for president. We all saw how influential that endorsement was in the 1996 caucuses.
Even if Iowa Republicans were eager to nominate Branstad for governor again, would that be smart when the public already views Republicans as “backward-looking” and Democrats as “the party of the future”?
I’ll have more to say about the recent Republican poll in the next few days. I wasn’t surprised to read that Vermeer Corporation chief executive Mary Andringa also told the Des Moines Register that she’s not running for governor next year. Republican moderates like Doug Gross want a candidate from the business community, but I don’t think Culver looks vulnerable enough now. Leaving a senior corporate job to run a serious campaign for governor is a big risk. Even the Republican poll, which had a fairly high ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the sample, found Culver at 52 percent approval and 35 percent disapproval. Culver’s re-elect numbers are somewhat lower, but I stand by my opinion that he is not yet in the danger zone for an incumbent.