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.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

Previewing the Vander Plaats case against Branstad

Bob Vander Plaats was the clear front-runner in the Republican field of gubernatorial candidates a few months ago. He’s been campaigning for the job longer and more actively than anyone else. He had contacts statewide from his 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor, and from Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. He also had several endorsements from state legislators and a big lead in a Republican poll taken in July.

During the past six months, various potential Republican candidates have ruled out a campaign for governor, including Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and State Auditor David Vaudt. Efforts to recruit a business leader (like Mary Andringa) failed too. Some Iowa politicos believe that these people backed off not because they thought Governor Chet Culver was unbeatable, but because they couldn’t see a way to defeat Vander Plaats in the Republican primary.

Most people would now agree that Vander Plaats is an underdog. Branstad will have more money, more media coverage and more support from Republican power-brokers. He’ll be able to cite last week’s Research 2000 poll, showing Branstad narrowly ahead of Culver, but Vander Plaats way behind the incumbent.

Vander Plaats won’t give up without a fight, though. He has promised to stay in this race through the June primary, and he has some strong cards to play, as I’ll discuss after the jump.  

Continue Reading...
View More...