Will elite support translate into Iowa Republican caucus-goers for Chris Christie?

From a liberal’s perspective, Bruce Rastetter is the closest thing Iowa has to a James Bond villain. After making his fortune off a polluting industry (large-scale hog confinements), Rastetter provided the “seed money” for the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which quickly became one of the most influential conservative dark money groups, a “prolific funder” of negative ads often “deemed false.” In 2009, Rastetter played a key role in coaxing Terry Branstad out of political retirement. He then parlayed his status as the top donor to Branstad’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign into an appointment to the prestigious Iowa Board of Regents. Thanks to a little intervention from the governor, Rastetter moved quickly into a leadership position on that board, where he “blurred the line” between business and board work, hoping to expand one of his corporations’ land holdings on another continent. Last month, Rastetter made news as the apparent mastermind behind hiring business executive Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, over strong objections by stakeholders on campus.

A certain type of Republican is as attracted to Rastetter’s power as many Democrats are repelled by it. The “quiet but fierce” Rastetter is a top donor to GOP establishment candidates and committees in Iowa. He dislikes the “kingmaker” label often attached to him, but who else could get the governor, lieutenant governor, both U.S. senators, three U.S. House members, and nine presidential candidates to show up for an event in its first year, the way Rastetter did for his Iowa Ag Summit in March?

Rastetter says he donates to candidates to “make a difference,” not to “get access.” Whatever his motives, he has tremendous influence. Governor Branstad said earlier this year that he keeps in touch with Rastetter “at least once a week” and “greatly” values the businessman’s opinions. So do some other high-dollar Republican donors, who flew with Rastetter to New Jersey in 2011, hoping to recruit Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Last week, most of those business leaders stood with Rastetter again to endorse Christie’s presidential bid. The event in Des Moines capped a good couple of months for Christie here in recruiting backers from the Iowa GOP establishment.

How much will those endorsements help the New Jersey governor win over rank and file Iowa Republicans who show up at precinct caucuses?  

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2016 Iowa caucus thread: Scott Walker coming to Polk County

It’s been a while since I posted about the 2016 Iowa caucus campaign. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker agreed to headline the Polk County Republican Party’s spring fundraiser in May. According to Kevin Hall’s report for The Iowa Republican blog, Governor Terry Branstad helped make arrangements for Walker’s appearance. Like Branstad and unlike eight other GOP governors around the country, Walker opted against taking federal funding to expand Medicaid in his state.

Hall reports that retired insurance executive Cameron Sutton “played a key role in securing Scott Walker’s appearance” as well. Sutton was one of seven Iowa Republican donors from the business community who flew to New Jersey in May 2011 to urge Governor Chris Christie to run for president. (Christie’s star has fallen in Republican circles since he praised President Barack Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy and later agreed to expand Medicaid in New Jersey.) Sutton endorsed Newt Gingrich for president before the Iowa caucuses but wasn’t pleased with the way Gingrich bashed Mitt Romney during the GOP primaries.

Any comments about the next presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: "Bain way" edition

Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital is under increasing scrutiny as opponents try desperately to stop him from winning next Saturday’s GOP primary in South Carolina. Some of the anti-Romney narratives can’t stand up to the same level of scrutiny. I’ve posted some links on the “Bain way” and other factors in the Republican presidential race after the jump.  

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Chris Christie recruitment discussion thread

Seven Iowa businessmen are flying to New Jersey today to dine with the man they hope will improve a comically bad Republican presidential field. I understand the idea behind recruiting Governor Chris Christie, but I don’t get why the power-brokers are calling so much attention their efforts.

More thoughts on the courting of Christie are after the jump, along with a bonus tip on what not to say if you want outsiders to take the Iowa caucuses seriously.

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