Could Vander Plaats pull off an upset?

I’ve been assuming for the past few months that there’s no way Bob Vander Plaats can defeat Terry Branstad in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Branstad’s statewide connections from his four terms as governor and his support from major donors should give him an insurmountable edge, especially in the eastern Iowa counties. While Vander Plaats would have a great shot at winning a caucus or a statewide convention, I didn’t see any way he could keep Branstad below 50 percent in the primary, especially with Branstad likely to raise far more money.

I’ve started to rethink my assumptions as conservative Republicans have spoken out against Branstad.

Everyone knew the Iowa Family Policy Center’s political action committee would endorse Vander Plaats at some point, but their statement yesterday went far beyond expressing a preference for Vander Plaats. The IFPC made clear that they will not support Branstad in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination.

Follow me after the jump for more on the IFPC’s endorsement and how Vander Plaats could win the primary.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Another prominent national conservative backs Vander Plaats

David Barton, a self-styled constitutional expert who founded the socially conservative WallBuilders organization, has endorsed Bob Vander Plaats for governor:

“Bob Vander Plaats epitomizes the leadership our Founding Fathers envisioned when they stood up for our individual liberties,” Barton said in a prepared statement. “He knows that it’s the hard work and unfettered creative spirit of individuals made this country and states like Iowa great. He knows that more bureaucracies, more government employees, higher taxes and increased government spending will crush Iowa. And, he’ll articulate that message in winning fashion.”

Here’s some background on Barton’s vision for America, chock full of Biblical interpretations supporting right-wing public policies. Barton spoke to the Iowa Christian Alliance this fall (click that link to watch videos). His organization hosts a large annual “ProFamily Legislators Conference.”

Barton’s endorsement may help Vander Plaats raise money from around the country as well as recruit volunteers in Iowa. Vander Plaats will particularly need financial support from out of state in order to compete with Terry Branstad, who built relationships with many major donors and local activists during his four terms as governor.

I’ll be curious to see whether conservative activists looking to “take back the Republican Party” through primaries will focus on Iowa’s gubernatorial race in the winter and spring. Vander Plaats already has the backing of former presidential candidate and current Fox TV host Mike Huckabee as well as pop culture icon Chuck Norris. Vander Plaats also was featured on the cover of Focus on the Family’s national magazine in November.

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