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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New Branstad running mate speculation thread

James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette talked to Terry Branstad yesterday about the qualities he’s looking for in a potential lieutenant governor. If he wins the nomination, Branstad wants a running mate who is younger than he is (63), and also “intelligent, hardworking, conservative, a good communicator and someone who could serve as governor.” He told Lynch that “some Eastern Iowans” are on his list.

Branstad has promised social conservatives that he won’t pick another pro-choice running mate, so that rules out former State Representative Libby Jacobs of West Des Moines. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Branstad choose Rod Roberts, although Lynch’s report says Branstad “downplayed” the possibility that he will pick one of the other gubernatorial candidates.

Any of the 20 state legislators who have endorsed Branstad for governor could be on Branstad’s short list. Or, he may look to someone from the business community, but it’s been months since I heard anyone predict that insurance company executive Doug Reichardt would be Branstad’s choice. Perhaps there’s some truth to the rumors that Reichardt isn’t interested in being lieutenant governor.

If Branstad looks east, one obvious contender is Christian Fong, the well-spoken former candidate for governor from Cedar Rapids. Last month State Representative Renee Schulte endorsed Branstad, and since Schulte’s husband was Fong’s campaign treasurer, I wondered whether some kind of deal was in the works. But Fong hasn’t endorsed any candidate since he dropped out of the race six months ago. Earlier this month he founded the Iowa Dream Project, a “nonpartisan” 501(c)4 organization designed to increase turnout among conservative voters under age 45 and discuss issues in a respectful “Iowa tone.” I doubt Fong would have rolled out this group now if he expected to be running for lieutenant governor full-time during the next six months. It sounds more like a good way for him to stay active, help the Republican cause, and boost his prospects for some appointed position in a Branstad administration.

Another eastern Iowa possibility is former State Representative Sandy Greiner. Choosing her would continue the Iowa tradition of female lieutenant governors during the past two and a half decades. Greiner is an experienced candidate with socially conservative views (even if a few wingnuts gripe about her). She is also well-connected to some major donors in the business community. She is president of the American Future Fund and created the “Draft Branstad PAC” last year. That 527 organization turned into the NextGen PAC after Branstad formed an exploratory committee to run for governor. I don’t think Greiner will be Branstad’s choice, though, because she filed to run for the Iowa Senate in district 45. That race is one of the Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the upper chamber, and I doubt she would have become a candidate if she expected to be on the ticket with Branstad.

Though no one else has mentioned her name to me, State Representative Linda Miller seems like a promising choice. She has endorsed Branstad and is from Bettendorf, one of the Quad Cities. Republicans used to be dominant in populous Scott County but have lost ground there in recent years.

Some conservative activists have slammed Branstad for elevating Joy Corning to the office of lieutenant governor during the 1990s. Lynch asked Branstad about Corning, and he said she was a good choice “at the time”. He added that he disagrees with some of what Corning has done as a “private citizen.” Several years ago, Corning chaired a major capital campaign for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. Last year she publicly supported civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Corning backs Branstad’s current campaign and is privately urging fellow moderates to vote for him in the primary.

Bleeding Heartland readers, who do you think is on Branstad’s short list, and whom should he pick as a running mate?

Feel free to speculate about Bob Vander Plaats as well. From what I’ve heard, the consensus is that he would choose his campaign co-chair, retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson. I consider Vander Plaats a long-shot for the nomination, especially with Rod Roberts splitting the conservative vote. But we haven’t seen any public polls confirming Branstad’s front-runner status. Vander Plaats does have a path to the nomination, and he keeps winning straw polls of Republican activists.  

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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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Fong suspends campaign for governor

The only Republican gubernatorial candidate from eastern Iowa suspended his campaign today. Iowa Politics has the full press release. Here’s the statement from Christian Fong’s campaign website:

“The message was right, and the vision remains unclouded. Commitment to the Iowa Dream means that while practical financial hurdles may prevent a run for Governor in 2010, I will continue to campaign for the Iowa’s future.”

– Christian Fong

Ed Failor, Jr. of Iowans for Tax Relief reportedly promised to help Fong raise enough money for a serious campaign, and Fong raised $100,000 in three weeks after entering the gubernatorial race this summer. However, it sounds like Terry Branstad’s return to politics dried up the money Fong was counting on.

Branstad was quick to release a statement today:

“I want to thank Christian for bringing his youth, energy and unique perspective to the Iowa governor’s race. Christian Fong epitomizes the Iowa dream, and I look forward to working with him on the critical need for Republicans to be a relevant voice for young people. We must provide a thriving business climate in Iowa that entices young professionals to remain in Iowa and raise their families here. Christian Fong is an exciting, energetic Republican and we’re fortunate to have him in our party.”

Does anyone think Fong might become the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor next year? Lots of people in Polk County expect Branstad to choose Doug Reichardt for a running mate.

I am disappointed that we won’t have a chance to find out whether an Iowa Republican could get serious traction using Barack Obama’s playbook.

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New Branstad running mate speculation thread

It might seem presumptuous to talk about former Governor Terry Branstad’s running mate when the guy finished fifth in a Republican straw poll last week, but bear with me.

Branstad has work to do with the social conservative wing of the Iowa GOP. Those voters carried him in the 1982 and 1994 Republican primaries, but in those races, he faced more moderate opponents. The current GOP field has no moderates, and Bob Vander Plaats is campaigning against Branstad from the right.

Last week Branstad tried to reassure prominent figures on the religious right about his intentions. Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart attended this meeting and felt it did not go well for Branstad. Mike Demastus had less kind words for the former governor after the meeting. The posts by Vander Hart and Demastus are must-reads, and I’ll have more to say about them in the future. The most important things I learned from Vander Hart:

1) Branstad is promising to choose a conservative running mate:

Joy Corning was addressed, and again she was picked [as lieutenant governor] for purely political reasons. He says that he’d pick a younger conservative this time around.

If Branstad made this promise to a group of social conservatives, then we can be fairly certain that pro-choice former State Representative Libby Jacobs won’t be his running mate.

2) Branstad also said he isn’t planning another “marathon” as governor:

He wants to position himself to prepare a future leader who he can hand the baton off to.

It sounds as if Branstad hinted that his running mate won’t just be window dressing for the election. Rather, his choice for lieutenant governor will be the person he wants to succeed him as governor. It wasn’t always the case; remember, Branstad endorsed Jim Ross Lightfoot over Corning in the 1998 gubernatorial primary.

When I ask people what they’ve heard about Branstad’s future running mate, one name keeps coming up: Doug Reichardt. Let’s talk this over after the jump.

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