Former Governor Terry Branstad is expected to announce soon that he’s running for governor again. The rumor going around town is that he will name his running mate immediately upon entering the race. One person I’ve heard mentioned for that role is former State Representative Libby Jacobs. She represented Iowa House district 60, containing most of West Des Moines, from 1995 until she retired in 2008.
Jacobs would be a logical choice for Branstad in some ways. She could help correct the gender gap that hurts Republican candidates. She could help the GOP in wealthy suburban areas that are no longer solidly Republican. Jacobs never faced serious opposition in House district 60, but Chet Culver carried the district in 2006. Although House district 60 voters elected Republican Peter Cownie to replace Jacobs last November, Barack Obama narrowly beat John McCain in the district.
Jacobs also has time to embark on an aggressive campaign. In May of this year, she was laid off as a spokeswoman for the Principal Financial Group.
Choosing Jacobs would incur some political risks for Branstad, because she was a fairly reliable pro-choice vote in the Iowa House. Jacobs hasn’t been active in Planned Parenthood like some other former Republican women legislators (Joy Corning, Janet Metcalf, Betty Grundberg, Julia Gentleman), but that distinction won’t matter to social conservatives. Certain people on the religious right had trouble accepting even GOP Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was against abortion rights with very few exceptions.
Branstad didn’t attend the Iowa Family Policy Center’s big fundraiser in September, and he skipped last weekend’s Iowa Christian Alliance dinner too. Selecting Jacobs or any other pro-choice running mate would indicate that Branstad agrees with his longtime top aide Doug Gross, who says Republicans will continue to lose until they stop alienating moderates and shift their focus from social issues to the economy. In effect, Branstad would be telling social conservatives, “I’ve got the money to win this primary, we need to appeal to the center, now sit down and shut up.”
Republicans who believe Gross hurts the party and are looking for Branstad to distance himself from him will be disappointed. Those who share Bob Vander Plaats’ view (Republicans have been losing elections in Iowa because they’re not conservative enough) will be enraged. Expect WHO talk radio host Steve Deace to go ballistic if Branstad shuns his campaign advice.
Of course, the rumor about Jacobs could turn out to be false. Branstad might choose a running mate with strong backing among social conservatives. That would indicate a desire to unify the party and neutralize critics who are angry that he chose Joy Corning to serve as lieutenant governor. If Branstad has any concerns about losing the Republican primary, he might take this route. Doing so would undercut Vander Plaats, who has already pledged not to pick a pro-choice running mate. State Representative Jodi Tymeson, who co-chairs the Vander Plaats campaign, is widely expected to be his choice for lieutenant governor.
Share any relevant rumors, thoughts or predictions in this thread.