Early Odds on the Republican Race for Governor

(Thanks to American007 for this analysis. Be sure to click "there's more" to read the whole piece. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today, the right-leaning news aggregator The Bean Walker ran a headline: THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF TODAY. The link and reference refer to a GOP fundraiser in Sac County this morning that brought together four likely candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Those men are Rep. (and former Speaker of the House) Chris Rants of Sioux City; 2006 Lt. Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City;Rep. Rob Roberts of Carroll; and Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.

While the Republican primary is still months away, this unofficial first step on the long road to the nomination seems a good place to start with some early odds on the eventual winner.

Rep. Chris Rants (R-Sioux City)     3:1

Rants is the Hillary Clinton of this race. He's been a figurehead and a lightning rod within the party for almost a decade. He served as Speaker of the House during the Vilsack years, from 2002 until his party's ouster in 2007. In fact, many within the party still blame him for that defeat–even though 2006 was such a realignment that it would have been hard for the party do much better than it did under any circumstances. Much like Ms. Clinton, Rants is highly polarizing figure who has a reputation for having a “bulldozer” style of leadership, with little time or tact for those who stand in his way. Also, like Hillary, he is going to have to learn to deal with media and pundits who are less than cordial.

(The best analysis of his candidacy comes from this piece in Cityview's Civic Skinny column. It is a must read.)

Rants 2010 candidacy seems based on what Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican calls “a kinder, gentler Chris Rants”.  According to O. Kay Henderson's liveblog of the Sac County event, Rants primary focus in the campaign is going to be economic and business issues; somewhat of a departure from his rivals. 

Analysis:  Rants is well positioned in the race to become the choice of Republicans who are turned off by Bob Vander Plaats but are hesitant to embrace a less-conservative choice. He also has a fat rolodex of fundraising contacts and a long list of favors to call in. He's in it to win it.



Bob Vander Plaats     3:1

Vander Plaats, the 2006 Lt. Governor candidate and primary candidate in his own right in 2002 and 2006, has been to the political wilderness and back several rimes. His supporters believe, however, that the third time around is the charm.

Borne aloft by the twin archangels of Iowa conservativism Steve Deace and Mike Huckabee, Vander Plaats' “plaatform” is straight-line social conservative. His primary issue thus far is putting an end to same-sex marriage rights as granted by Varnum v. Brien.  However, reactions to his plan to do so by issuing an executive order have been extremely negative outside of his core group of supporters. Many believe that his plan is patently unconstitutional. 

Analysis: Vander Plaats appeals to the basest parts of the Republican base. However, among that segment of the party he enjoys fervent, dedicated support. Unless the more moderate elements of the Republican Party can grasp the reins, Vander Plaats remains a strong contender.



Unknown Moderate     3:1

It's an open secret that there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that isn't happy with the current crop of candidates. This shadowy group of mostly moderates, old-money and business Republicans has been candidate shopping lately. Headed by favorite so-con punching bag (and 2002 candidate for Governor) Doug Gross, this faction has been talking to some unconventional potential candidates. Among the names being talked about: Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, Dubuque University president Jeff Bullock, Generation Iowa Commission vice-chair Christian Fong, Farm Bureau president Craig Lang, Jeff Lamberti, Marianette Miller-Meeks and even Fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad.

The platform for such a candidate is seen through a glass darkly, but is sure to run to to the left of Rants and far to the left of Vander Plaats–a center-right agenda, with an emphasis on economic/budget/tax issues over traditional so-con fare.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who will emerge as the center-right option in this race, although Gross has promised to find a candidate by Septmber. What is certain, however, is that that candidate will enjoy significant financial and institutional support from the faction of the party that doesn't want to see the race wasted on a quixotic Vander Plaats run. In the absence of more information, I give Rants, Vander Plaats and the moderate candidate the same chances.

Sen. Paul McKinley (R-Chariton)    5:1

McKinley is the Joe Biden of this race (to continue my analogy from earlier). He's a solid elder statesman type State Senator who is well-liked with few enemies. First and foremost, he's an issues man in a personality-driven race. He's taken some fire from conservatives for not sponsoring any anti-same-sex marriage bills this session, but that's befitting his cautious nature.

An article he wrote for The Iowa Republican this week was as chock-full of numbers and fact-checks as any long-winded Biden corker. Since he's not officially in the race yet, his platform is hard to divine–but given his track record, one can guess that it might be middle-of-the-road Republican with a focus on the economy.

Analysis: I consider McKinley to be the dark horse in this race. If the “mystery moderate” fails to appear, Rants or Vander Plaats suffer a Sanford-Ensign style collapse, or the race turns into a bloody civil war, McKinley could be drafted as a compromise candidate.


Rep. Rod Roberts (R-Carroll) and Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone)     10:1
Analysis: These men are the Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson of this race, respectively. They're decent party men, solid records and credentials, some support–and after the race is over, they'll still have that. But they won't win, and in the end, most people will forget they ran in the first place. It's possible that Behn, like Richardson, is a relatively young man and may be using the campaign as a means of positioning himself for races to come.

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  • surprised not to see King

    He’s everyones favorite looney:) and with redistricting bound to widen his always safe western Iowa into more liberal Central Iowa (possibly encompassing Fort Dodge?), I am sure it is on his mind.  

    • I don't think he is running

      He is doing the robocalling as a fundraiser/voter ID operation for the National Organization for Marriage, as far as I know. I haven’t heard anything to suggest he is seriously considering running.

      It’s hard to imagine any redistricting plan that would put him at risk. We don’t have politicized redistricting here. The more realistic options, such as those ragbrai08 discussed here, keep King on safe ground.

      • King

        My thinking is that if King were going to jump in, he’d have jumped in by now. Plus, it makes absolutely no sense for him to throw away a very safe seat (maybe even a seat-for-life) on a Governor race that’s a tossup at best.

        He’s crazy, but not that crazy.

  • three disagreements

    Thanks for this diary–I’ve been meaning to pull together something along these lines, but you did it better!

    I feel Vander Plaats has a better chance than Rants to win the nomination. He’s got much more of a statewide network than Rants based on his experience with Huckabee’s campaign. He’s been campaigning more actively. And frankly, Rants is just not likable. It’s telling that some state legislators have already endorsed BVP, including Kent Sorenson and Jodi Tymeson (who backed Romney for president). These are people who know Rants very well.

    I don’t think we can rule out Northey running either. He has made staff hires that would be unusual for a secretary of agriculture campaign. If Culver’s polling goes south I could see Northey jumping in.

    In your unknown moderate category, I think Lamberti is the one with the best chance of winning if he were to get in, because he has access to money and is a pretty good campaigner. But he’s not a moderate.

    • also, Vander Plaats

      will have radio loudmouth Steve Deace as a campaign surrogate for the next 11 months. I don’t think that will hurt him.

    • three responses

      Thanks for the promo, first off!

      On BVP, I think he alienates a lot of the party with his general Ned Flanders vibe. Also, I think that while he has the grassroots, the establishment doesn’t want him anywhere near the nomination. Rants, on the other hand, is a true establishment man–even if he is a jerk.

      Northey is giving off so many mixed signals right now. On the one hand, he appears to be gearing up for a big campaign–but on the other hand, he’s sending out fliers that suggest he’s running for re-election and not going to any of these “cattle call” events. He’s so hard to figure out.

      Lamberti strikes me as sort of an “any way the wind blows” politician. If he sees an opening in the campaign as a moderate, I think he’ll take it. He’s another one who is giving out mixed signals like crazy.

      Fong is fascinating. I’d love to profile him for a future diary.  

      • BVP does alienate a lot of the party

        but can he sneak in and win the primary with 35 percent of the vote? Maybe.

        I guess it makes sense for Northey to sit back and decide later if there’s an opening for him.

        You are probably right about Lamberti, but I don’t know if he could be sold to the general electorate as a moderate. The only thing Deace could come up with to trash him is that he voted to confirm “gay activist” Jonathan Wilson to a state commission.

        Fong is one to watch for the future, and I would definitely encourage you to write that diary. Which legislative district does he live in?

        • late to the game, but:

          If it’s a four or five way field and goes to a convention, BVP has an advantage. That was Fallon’s stratego on the Dem side in `06, and a convention gave us Steve King. Also, the GOP came damn close to a convention in 2002; all three candidates were between 30 and 36 percent and Gross won with only 35.6.

          Watch the caucuses and see if BVP packs them.

          • great point

            Another reason why BVP has a better chance than Rants.

            Fong has no chance in hell at winning the nomination this time around, but that doesn’t mean he can’t gain anything from running. I will post something about this tomorrow.

  • another suggestion

    I recommend that you cross-post this diary at Swing State Project, where a lot of people will be interested.

    Also, I added some tags.