Terry Branstad seems to have been around Iowa politics forever, but that doesn't mean there's nothing new to learn about him. This week I learned that in 2007, Branstad joined former Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack to advocate for new health insurance mandates in Iowa. More on that and other Branstad news can be found after the jump.
"Two former Iowa governors recommended Wednesday that Iowa impose universal health insurance coverage by requiring individuals or businesses to purchase policies. Ex-Govs. Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack told a legislative commission that the system could provide incentives for screenings, wellness and preventive measures designed to head off medical emergencies that drive up costs and insurance rates."
Granted, Branstad was calling for a state mandate instead of the federal health insurance mandate Congress just enacted, and he strongly criticized the new federal law last week. Still, I wonder if Branstad's past support for mandatory health insurance coverage will become an issue in the Republican gubernatorial primary. The typical Republican primary voter is probably upset about "Obamacare" and may believe Republican spin about mandates being unconstitutional.
Branstad met with Mitt Romney yesterday. Romney was in Iowa to promote his new book, but his visit prompted commentary about a possible presidential run in 2012 and the resemblance between "Romneycare" in Massachusetts and federal health insurance reform. Republican blogger Krusty Konservative thinks Branstad "must be an idiot":
I'm sure Branstad hit Romney up for some cash, but the last thing that the Branstad campaign needed was a little PR help from Mitt Romney.
Romney's quasi endorsement of Branstad does nothing to soothe fears that Branstad would govern as a moderate consensus builder than a conservative leader. That criticism might not be fair, but it is the reality of the situation.
Speaking of Romney, Branstad discussed the past and future presidential candidate's prospects with Jonathan Martin of Politico:
"I think he should play in Iowa, but he maybe overplayed in the last go-round," said Branstad [....] He added: "I don't think you want to run against Iowa, [but] I'm not saying you've got to make Iowa the be all to end all."
Romney's former Iowa chairman and Branstad's close adviser Doug Gross has predicted that some GOP candidates won't compete in the Iowa caucuses next cycle because the religious right dominates the universe of caucus-goers.
Getting back to the governor's race, Branstad's debut television commercial drew the attention of Hotline On Call. The ad first ran during last Friday's NCAA basketball game between UNI and Michigan State and again during Sunday's "Elite Eight" game in that part of the bracket. I'm not sure whether the commercial has stayed in rotation this week. Please post a comment, shoot me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or let me know on Twitter @desmoinesdem if you've seen the Branstad commercial on television since the weekend.
The commercial includes an unidentified man asserting, "Whatever Governor Branstad says, he will do." However, the Iowa Democratic Party compared the four promises Branstad makes in the ad with promises from his previous campaigns and his record during his four terms as governor. As you probably guessed, he didn't achieve the past goals he set for himself.
I am still waiting for Branstad to explain how he will cut government spending by 15 percent over five years, a central promise of his current campaign. He's been running for governor full-time for months now. He should be able to produce some kind of road map for shrinking government spending. I haven't seen many specifics from him on budget cuts, other than eliminating the preschool access program, and that wouldn't come close to saving the amount of money he claims he will save. The significant growth in spending from the general fund during Branstad's four terms as governor (when Iowa's population didn't grow) is all the more reason to press him for details on future spending cuts. It's not for nothing that Bob Vander Plaats' stump speech includes the line, "We've been growing government governor after governor after governor..."
Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.