Silver linings of a Branstad candidacy

Terry Branstad is kicking off his “official” candidacy for governor today, launching a tour around the state. His campaign announced fairly strong fundraising numbers last week and just leaked an internal Republican primary poll showing Branstad leading Bob Vander Plaats by 63 percent to 18 percent.

It’s conceivable that Vander Plaats’ campaign could take off in the coming months. Right-winger Marco Rubio is now considered likely to defeat Florida Governor Charlie Crist in that state’s U.S. Senate primary, despite commanding leads Crist had in polls a few months ago. However, I assume Branstad will lock up the Republican nomination with little trouble.

Branstad will undoubtedly be a tough general-election opponent for Governor Chet Culver. The biggest hurdles for a challenger are usually name recognition, fundraising, and getting voters to imagine the challenger doing the job he’s seeking. Branstad is well-known, has done the job before, and has wealthy donors behind him. Frankly, I’d rather not have him in this race.

But my mother taught me not to focus too much on the negative. After the jump I offer some silver linings of a Branstad candidacy.  

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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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Steve King's nonsense of the week

Congressman Steve King is the guest on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program this week. Unfortunately, it sounds like no one on the panel asked our ACORN-obsessed representative about last week’s Congressional Research Service report, which cleared ACORN of violating any federal regulations during the past five years, or about the federal court ruling that halted a Congressional ban on federal funding for ACORN.

But don’t worry, King served up plenty of nonsensical right-wing talking points yesterday. You can watch the program on Iowa Public TV this weekend, but a few highlights are after the jump.

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Revisionist history watch: Branstad budget edition

The editors of the conservative Fort Dodge Messenger are ecstatic about Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign, and they got a little carried away in this Sunday editorial:

Iowa must return to a pay-as-you-go approach to budgeting. Government spending should be carefully aligned with anticipated revenues. As governor, Branstad rigorously adhered to that philosophy. He pledged it will once again become central to state budgeting if he is elected.

Who are they kidding?

Branstad’s sleight of hand on the budget was so notorious that as a three-term incumbent, he almost lost the 1994 GOP primary to Fred Grandy. That campaign centered on “the Mastercard governor” and his record of fiscal mismanagement, including keeping two sets of books to hide deficits.

As State Representative Chris Rants has noted, Branstad likes to take credit for budget reforms that were not his idea and were intended to prevent future governors from repeating his mistakes.

That’s to be expected from a politician, but I expect more reality-based commentary from newspaper editors.

By the way, did you notice how the Messenger editors suggested that Iowa is no longer doing “pay as you go” budgeting? That Republican talking point is supposed to make people believe that Democrats have borrowed money to fund budget line items. In fact, the I-JOBS state bonding program was for capital investment projects. Investors understood that distinction. That’s why the bonds were sold at lower interest rates, and the Bond Buyer daily rated I-JOBS one of the country’s top 10 best financing deals for 2009.

Even after factoring in the I-JOBS program, Iowa’s state debt per capita is low by national standards.

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Bob Vander Plaats has real talent

Like Spinal Tap’s amp that goes up to 11, Bob Vander Plaats can ratchet up the demagoguery that little bit more than the competition. While other conservatives warn against compromising the Republican Party’s core principles, Vander Plaats says Republican moderates make voters want to throw up, like Jesus when confronted with “lukewarm” followers.

While other conservatives back a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (which would take years to adopt), Vander Plaats promises to stop gays and lesbians from getting married on his first day as governor of Iowa.

While other conservatives warn against a “government takeover” of health care, Vander Plaats isn’t just against a new public health insurance plan, he wants to protect Iowans from the tyranny of federal-run Medicare and Medicaid.  

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