|Earlier this week, James Lynch quoted Culver as saying he is "keeping my options open."
Culver, who campaigned in five states for President Obama [in 2012], enjoyed being back on the campaign trail --- "the fun part of politics."
Even before working as an Obama surrogate, Culver was thinking about 2014.
"At the supermarket, people come up to me and tell me I should run again," he said. "I'm encouraged by the level of support from Democrats, generally."
He'll begin actively exploring a 2014 run in the next few months, Culver said. [...]
It would be a clear choice, said Culver, who believes he had a great record to run on in 2010, but was hurt by the national economy.
"We got through some difficult times," he said. That includes state assistance to Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and many other Eastern Iowa communities damaged by flooding in 2008.
He'll remind Iowans that during the Culver administration the minimum wage was increased, smoking was banned in nearly all workplaces, preschool opportunities were expanded and more children received health care coverage.
I strongly supported all of those policies, as well as the under-rated I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program and Culver's efforts to promote passenger rail.
In addition, while Culver was governor Iowa handled its federal stimulus money well. For instance, our state turned around the transportation funding from the stimulus quickly and spent most of it on worthwhile projects.
On the whole, Culver was a good governor under difficult circumstances. It is grossly unfair that Republicans including Terry Branstad were able to push false narratives about "deficit spending" and I-JOBS borrowing. Independent analysts such as the three leading bond rating agencies agreed that Iowa managed its finances very well during the worst recession in 60 years.
Despite those facts, I am skeptical that Culver would have a good chance to beat Branstad in 2014. Life is unfair, and I'm afraid that too many people believe Republicans deserve the credit for Iowa's strong financial condition. Nor have I seen any evidence that a significant number of Branstad voters from 2010 have buyer's remorse. In part that's because the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate has blocked some of Branstad's efforts that would have been unpopular. If Branstad had killed the preschool program, tens of thousands of Iowa families would have felt the impact directly. It's hard to get people fired up about Branstad trying to eliminate this funding when the Iowa Senate was able to save the day.
On December 26, Culver spoke to the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble.
"I'm in no rush," he said. "I don't feel any pressure."
He is considering forming an exploratory campaign committee, a move that would allow him to raise money while not formally declaring his candidacy. Culver said he's been encouraged to run, both by fellow Democrats and Iowans he's met informally while running errands around Des Moines.
If Culver forms an exploratory committee, the first major expenditure should be for serious polling and focus groups to see whether he could make an effective case against Branstad. In April 2011, Public Policy Polling found Culver slightly ahead of Branstad in a potential rematch, but in October 2011 the same firm found Branstad would defeat Culver by 51 percent to 40 percent. This year Branstad has had strong approval ratings in surveys by Public Policy Polling and Selzer and Co for the Des Moines Register.
Whoever takes on Branstad in 2014 will have a tough task ahead (and I have no doubt that he will run for a sixth term). I would rather see Democrats nominate a new candidate who can make a fresh case--preferably someone who does not have to give up a current elected office to run for governor.
Branstad is not as polarizing as some of the other Republican governors elected in 2010. He loves campaigning. Culver enjoyed being out on the stump for President Obama, but it's worth noting that the Obama campaign didn't schedule a lot of events for Culver in Iowa. In late October, they had him appearing at an event in Florida.
What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?
P.S.- Many Iowa politics-watchers expect Branstad to face a primary challenge in 2014, but I haven't heard any specific names mentioned. The governor would easily defeat a GOP primary challenger in my opinion. He's not nearly as unpopular now as he was in 1994, when he barely survived the challenge from Republican U.S. Representative Fred Grandy.