Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats starts running this television commercial today:
Rough transcript by me:
Voice-over: Scandals, mismanagement, loaded budgets. Chet Culver has been a jobs killer.
Vander Plaats: Iowa needs a new governor. I’ll make Iowa the business startup capital of the world by cutting taxes, shrinking government, reducing our long-term debt, and marketing Iowa as a right-to-work state. I’ll create real jobs by growing our state the right way. It’s not just common sense, it’s the right thing to do.
I am shocked by the poor quality of this commercial. Vander Plaats speaks much more naturally in clips I’ve seen from his stump speeches than he does when he talks straight to the camera. They should have ditched the boilerplate anti-Culver visuals at the beginning and pulled 30 seconds worth of material from some of his campaign rallies, or even from the gubernatorial debates. I know I’m not the target audience for this commercial, but it doesn’t seem like a good way to introduce himself to the voters.
If Vander Plaats had not spent so much of what his campaign raised in 2009, he might have been up on television more than two weeks before the June 8 primary. Then he could have introduced himself in an all-positive commercial about his background, and perhaps run a couple of different ads on his issue agenda (making Iowa the business capital of the world).
One good thing about the ad is its focus on economic issues. There’s no reason for Vander Plaats to talk about abortion or same-sex marriage in a commercial. The Republican primary voters who care most about those issues already know where he stands.
Speaking of social issues, I heard a radio news story this morning about Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts being against letting gay couples adopt children. The same brief story paraphrased Terry Branstad as saying gay couples should only be allowed to adopt if no one else is able to take care of the child. I haven’t found a link to the story yet, and I don’t know if it refers to new comments over the weekend. During last Thursday’s Republican debate, which Iowa Public Television broadcast again Sunday, Roberts and Vander Plaats both said same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt or become foster parents. Branstad gave a more nuanced answer: “I believe that adoption should be in the best interests of the child, I think generally that means that you’d want to have it with a man and woman because that’s the best environment for a child to grow up in.”
That exchange illustrates why having Roberts in the race is so good for Branstad. Roberts prevents the Republican primary from being a two-man race, which would favor the more conservative candidate. Now Branstad only needs a plurality against two rivals who are giving all of the “correct” answers to voters on the religious right. Vander Plaats has support from plenty of social conservatives, such as Bill Salier and most notably the Iowa Family Policy Center, but Roberts prevents Vander Plaats from consolidating the conservative base.
Vander Plaats has something else to worry about today besides Roberts. Bret Hayworth reports in the Sioux City Journal that the organization Opportunities Unlimited replaced Vander Plaats as CEO because he wasn’t raising enough money to keep the non-profit functioning. The Vander Plaats campaign will try to downplay the report, because the main on-the-record source for the article is former board member Jackie Kibbie-Williams. She is the daughter of Iowa State Senator Jack Kibbie (a Democrat). But The Iowa Republican blog, which favors Branstad in the governor’s race, is already hyping the report. While Chris Rants was still running for governor last year, he raised questions about Vander Plaats’ management of Opportunities Unlimited. At that time, former board member Kim Hoogeveen defended Vander Plaats strongly, but Hoogeveen didn’t dispute the Kibbie-Williams account when contacted by Hayworth for today’s piece.
Share any thoughts about the Republican primary in this thread.
UPDATE: Todd Dorman noticed “Huckabee’s trademark subliminal background cross” in the Vander Plaats commercial and had this to say about Salier’s endorsement: “In addition to helping Tom Harkin become senator for life by hobbling his last credible opponent, Salier also endorsed President Tom Tancredo and President Fred Thompson. So clearly, this is a game-changer.”