Make up your mind, Christian Fong

Are you going to be the GOP’s hopeful, inclusive-talking guy, or are you going to do stuff like this?

Chinese communists swept to power in the last century without mentioning plans to nationalize businesses or institute forced abortions, Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong told supporters of the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps on Saturday.

“They came in promising hope and change,” Fong said. “Sound familiar?”

The Minutemen are hardly a significant movement in Iowa, but that doesn’t make it ok for mainstream Republicans to fuel paranoid fantasies about the Obama administration. Fong did tell the Minutemen that

tighter borders and the need to learn English must be tempered with open arms for those [immigrants] who use proper channels, he said.

Fong added in a later interview that it is good politics for Republicans to sound more welcoming for the growing number of “new Iowans.”

“It’s important for the Republican Party to not sound so angry,” Fong said. “Otherwise, we lose that whole bunch.”

If Fong’s main rivals for the gubernatorial nomination were still Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants, I would understand his warning against angry rhetoric. But the bigfoot in the Republican field is Terry Branstad. He can be a vicious political brawler, but you won’t catch him sounding angry. Kathie Obradovich put it well in her column about Branstad today:

He’ll try to take the high road to avoid engaging with his opponents when it suits him, and then rabbit-punch them under the table.

Fong launched his gubernatorial campaign soon after Branstad insisted he wasn’t going to run for governor. With Branstad in the race, who’s going to support Fong as a vehicle for restoring traditional Iowa values? Fong raised some big money in July, but I can’t imagine checks are rolling in now that Branstad’s people are making the big money calls.

Fong doesn’t have good options now, but if he can’t make a case for himself as a superior alternative to Branstad, he should bow out of this race sooner rather than later. Maybe he’s auditioning for a role as Branstad’s running mate, but I would guess that pandering to fringe groups isn’t going to help his cause there either.

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