Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong responded to a weekend of renewed speculation surrounding Terry Branstad by announcing that his campaign has recruited campus coordinators at all of Iowa’s leading universities and several colleges. Radio Iowa posted the Fong campaign’s press release, which listed the ten college coordinators and provided this none-too-subtle analysis:
Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager, added, “Considering we are several weeks away from classes starting on campuses across Iowa to already have College Chairs in place is a testament to Christian. His ability to inspire Iowa’s youth should not be lost on Iowa Republicans as we look to restore the Republican Party. We’ll continue to work until we have a presence at every university, college and community college in Iowa.”
The message to Republican bigwigs is clear. Fong is serious about this campaign and is building a strong organization in the GOP’s weakest area: the youth vote. Since colleges will be on summer break by the time next June’s primary rolls around, Fong’s campaign will have to implement an aggressive absentee ballot strategy. Early voting happens to be another area where Iowa Republicans have been getting mauled in recent years.
Perhaps some major donors will give Fong more consideration before leaping to the conclusion that Branstad is their only hope for keeping the nomination away from Bob Vander Plaats. If Branstad stays out, some of the people currently recruiting him might move toward Fong.
Alternatively, if Branstad jumps in, Fong is making himself attractive as a running mate.
When school is back in session, I would welcome diaries, comments or e-mails from Bleeding Heartland readers about how the Republican campaign looks on your campus. Will Vander Plaats have a strong presence at the regents universities and community colleges as well as at some small Christian institutions?