He'll have to do better than that

Brad Zaun made the news yesterday when he officially entered the race against Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and rival Republican candidate Jim Gibbons apparently wanted a little attention too. So Gibbons put out a press release accusing Boswell of not working hard enough.

After the jump I have more on that lame accusation, as well as speculation about who’s backing Gibbons against Zaun.  

Here’s the Gibbons press release:

Yesterday, the House released their calendar for the upcoming 2010 session. As it currently stands, the House will be voting only 17 days the first two months of 2010.

“At a time when Iowans are facing rising unemployment and home foreclosures, Congressman Boswell and Nancy Pelosi are wasting the first few months of next year to enrich their political war chests instead of doing the work they were sent to Washington to do,” said Jim Gibbons.

Gibbons continued, “Like so many Iowans, I am concerned by the direction Washington is taking us. I am running to bring Iowa values to Congress. Iowans deserve a congressman that works hard for them every single day. “

I wondered whether 17 voting days in two months was an unusually light load for the House of Representatives, so I contacted David Waldman, who runs the outstanding Congress Matters blog. He told me that the 109th Congress, the last under GOP control, “had roll call votes on just 7 days in Jan/Feb 2006.” Waldman also noted that there were eleven days of roll call voting during the first two months of 2004, twelve days during the comparable period in 2002, ten days in 2000, nine days in 1998, and ten days in 1996. The Republicans controlled the House calendar during all of those years. Gibbons should step up his background research before making unfounded attacks on Boswell’s work ethic.

The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich wasn’t impressed either:

Gibbons, of Des Moines, thinks the House ought to be voting more often than 17 days in January and February. But since Boswell doesn’t make the calendar, we can only assume Gibbons’ real point was to tie Boswell to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  As a first effort for his campaign, it’s a weak one that displays Gibbons’ inexperience as a candidate.

I noticed last month that some well-connected Republicans didn’t seem wild about Zaun running for Congress. Their main arguments seemed to be that Zaun shouldn’t “bail” on Iowa Senate Republicans, who need him to help raise money and mentor new candidates. But Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley is on board with Zaun for Congress.

I’ve been asking around to find out who in Republican circles encouraged Gibbons to run after Zaun expressed interest in challenging Boswell.

The Des Moines rumor mill seems to think that Gibbons is Bruce Rastetter’s man in this race. Rastetter is the ethanol baron who has generously contributed to many a Republican campaign. He was at the center of the effort to recruit Terry Branstad for governor this summer. He is also widely believed to be a financial backer of the conservative advocacy group American Future Fund (more on the connections between Rastetter and the AFF here).

I have no idea why Rastetter would prefer Gibbons to Zaun, but if the rumors are true, then Gibbons will almost certainly be able to raise enough money to run a credible campaign. Unlike Zaun, though, Gibbons has no prior campaign experience and has never held political office. For now, Zaun and Gibbons are both criticizing Boswell, but at some point Gibbons will have to explain why Republican primary voters should choose him.

I doubt the third declared Republican candidate, Dave Funk, will be able to raise the funds to compete with Zaun and Gibbons.

  • meltdown mode........

    My evaluation of the current Gibbons campaign is that it is in current nuclear meltdown mode…..

    Frankly, I feel Gibbons and his financial supporters had no idea a strong and popular candidate like Zaun would enter the race in December, before planning on their strategy and how Gibbons would exit Wells Fargo (Gibbons’ 4th investment firm since he went in the business).  By the time they got wind that Zaun was serious, Gibbons had already been telling clients he was leaving yet another firm (he admits for three weeks telling them that…) and the table was set.  Gibbons was forced to go on.

    Even though Craig Robinson called Gibbons “the most prepared candidate ever”, Gibbons went for weeks without a website after his announcement (which was located on the obit page of the Register).  His campaign had no way to get volunteers, names, donations…or even communicate to voters through a dedicated site.  

    The first DSM Register interview was already a disaster when Gibbons was asked about his first priority, “cutting the federal budget”, and then could not name one program to cut.  Then Cityview Magazine ran a blistering article on Gibbons’ residency problems, his “new” apartment on Douglas Avenue, and his very spotty voting record.

    Now, as a initial campaign effort, the Gibbons campaign launches a tepid press release that the Register calls “as a first effort for his campaign, it’s a week one that displays Gibbons’ inexperience as a candidate.”  Really bad.

    Not to mention now that many are noticing (including desmoinesdem to her credit) that Zaun is locking up rapidly the “Republican establishment”…many of which showed up to the Zaun campaign announcement, which was a well executed event by many accounts.  This leaves Gibbons little wiggle room even at this early point in the campaign.

    I still believe that Gibbons can raise funds and won’t jump out early…but it looks right now that there is very little if anything policy wise to recommend a Gibbons campaign over a Zaun effort, and Zaun’s successful experience in elected office and campaigns is showing already.  

    For Brad Zaun that is a huge advantage.

  • I have to agree.

    I have no idea who is backing Gibbons in this race but I do agree with the notion that this was a lame press release.  He’ll undoubtedly improve his message and the delivery as he and his staff gain campaign experience but does he have the time to do that?


    • plenty of time

      no one but junkies like us pay attention to politics six months before the primary–especially during the holiday season.

      He’ll have to get his act together within the next few months, though.

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