New Branstad running mate speculation thread (updated)

Terry Branstad’s campaign is building up suspense surrounding his choice for lieutenant governor, promising to reveal the name first to those who sign up for campaign texts. Before that happens, I thought I’d invite Bleeding Heartland readers to another round of scenario spinning.

A unity ticket of Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats, who won 40 percent of the votes in the GOP primary, was never in the cards. I see that Branstad supporter Craig Robinson is making sure everyone hears that Vander Plaats allegedly demanded the lieutenant governor slot as his price for not running as an independent candidate. Making Vander Plaats into the bad guy now will help Branstad’s people discredit him if he tries to run as a spoiler. I’ll have more to say on that in a future post, but I can’t see how Vander Plaats could organize or finance a third-party bid. His key staffer, Eric Woolson, just took a job with Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election campaign.

Getting back to Branstad’s running mate, the obvious choice is Rod Roberts, who finished a distant third in the June 8 primary. He was the best surrogate Branstad could have hoped for during the primary campaign, and the two men acted friendly toward each other during the third gubernatorial debate. A bunch of Republicans, mostly from western Iowa, are lobbying Branstad to pick Roberts, but Roberts is wisely not begging for the job in public.

Roberts might reassure some social conservatives about Branstad’s intentions, but a different way to unify the party would be to choose someone who endorsed Vander Plaats for governor. Retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson might fit the bill; she co-chaired the Vander Plaats campaign and probably would have been his running mate had he pulled off an upset in the primary. My hunch is that Branstad won’t pick a Vander Plaats supporter. If Branstad felt he needed a Vander Plaats loyalist by his side to win in November, things might be different, but recent polls may have reassured him that he can choose whomever he wants. Why reward someone who was in the opposing camp?

Some people expect Branstad to pick a running mate from eastern Iowa, because about two-thirds of this state’s voters live east of I-35. Plenty of current and former state legislators from eastern Iowa endorsed Branstad during the primary campaign. I wouldn’t rule out former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong either. He didn’t endorse anyone before the June 8 primary, but key backers of his brief campaign, notably Iowans for Tax Relief, got behind Branstad. Fong would bring generational balance to the ticket. He has been building a new organization, the Iowa Dream Project, which is seeking to increase youngish conservative voter turnout. Since Branstad is copying the Obama campaign’s tactic for getting people to sign up for text messages, why not pick a running mate who is well-versed in Obama-style campaign rhetoric?

On the other hand, Craig Robinson has argued that Branstad doesn’t need help in the east, where he did well in the primary. Branstad’s worst performance was in central Iowa, so Robinson argues that Branstad needs a running mate who’s a social conservative well-known in central Iowa. He pushes former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, who might have beaten Leonard Boswell in a better year for Republicans, and unsuccessful Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons. (But wait, I thought Coach Gibbons “burned the boats!”) Other possibilities named by Robinson include former state legislator Carmine Boal, who has been policy director for the current Branstad campaign. Robinson didn’t suggest Tymeson or any Vander Plaats endorser, as far as I am aware.

Several members of the business community made Robinson’s “short list” for Branstad running mates, including Doug Reichardt, whose name I kept hearing in this context last fall, and Vermeer Corporation CEO Mary Andringa. Last year there was some speculation Andringa would run for governor herself.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Who would be a smart lieutenant governor pick for Branstad, and whom will he choose?

UPDATE: Tom Beaumont published a piece on Branstad’s running mate in the Sunday Des Moines Register. Christian Fong says Branstad hasn’t called him, which probably means he is not under serious consideration. (Branstad plans to announce his choice before the June 26 Iowa GOP state convention.) Also off the short list, according to Beaumont, are Vermeer CEO Andringa and former State Senator Chuck Larson.

However, former State Senator Jeff Lamberti is being considered and told the Register that while he is “certainly not looking for a job,” it “would be pretty hard to say no” if asked to be lieutenant governor. Jim Gibbons is also apparently on the list, and he is looking for a job, because he quit his last job to run for Congress.

Beaumont’s article indicates that Branstad is considering Rod Roberts, Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn and State Senator Kim Reynolds of Osceola (Senate District 48). I know little about Reynolds and don’t see the advantage of choosing her over someone like Carmine Boal or Sandy Greiner, who have worked closely with Branstad. Reynolds is the only elected official I know of who has a protected Twitter account that points to a spammy-looking website.

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Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

Iowa Republicans have landed Sandy Greiner, their dream candidate against first-term Democratic State Senator Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45. The southeast Iowa district includes all of Washington, Jefferson, and Van Buren counties, plus part of Wapello and Johnson counties (map here). Schmitz defeated Republican incumbent David Miller by 184 votes in 2006, but the area leans slightly Republican in terms of voter registration.

Greiner represented Iowa House district 89, which makes up half of Senate district 45, for four terms (1993 to 2001). She then served for two years in the Iowa Senate before redistricting prompted her to return to House district 89 for another three terms (2003-2009). Consequently, she starts the race with high name recognition in the area and will be able to campaign almost as an incumbent. Republican blogger Craig Robinson sounds ready to declare this seat won for the GOP.

Greiner will be a stronger opponent for Schmitz than the three Republicans who had previously declared for the seat (Richard Marlar, Randy Besick and Dan Cesar). However, I would not assume that local Republicans will be united behind her this fall. Greiner is linked to business elites who have battled with activists on the religious right for control over the direction of the Iowa GOP.

Join me after the jump for more background on Greiner and why I suspect some social conservatives will fight her candidacy.

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