Weekend open thread: Possible Culver-Branstad rematch edition

Judging from this thread, Bleeding Heartland readers are interested in scenario spinning about the 2014 Iowa gubernatorial election. Former Governor Chet Culver is among several Democrats considering the race. I’ve posted a few thoughts about that prospect after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Dave Wasserman continues to update presidential election popular vote totals on this spreadsheet. As of December 29, Barack Obama has exceeded 51 percent of the popular vote and is nearly 5 million votes ahead of Mitt Romney: 65,892,366 votes to 60,926,847 votes.

Earlier this week, James Lynch quoted Culver as saying he is “keeping my options open.”

Culver, who campaigned in five states for President Obama [in 2012], enjoyed being back on the campaign trail — “the fun part of politics.”

Even before working as an Obama surrogate, Culver was thinking about 2014.

“At the supermarket, people come up to me and tell me I should run again,” he said. “I’m encouraged by the level of support from Democrats, generally.”

He’ll begin actively exploring a 2014 run in the next few months, Culver said. […]

It would be a clear choice, said Culver, who believes he had a great record to run on in 2010, but was hurt by the national economy.

“We got through some difficult times,” he said. That includes state assistance to Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and many other Eastern Iowa communities damaged by flooding in 2008.

He’ll remind Iowans that during the Culver administration the minimum wage was increased, smoking was banned in nearly all workplaces, preschool opportunities were expanded and more children received health care coverage.

I strongly supported all of those policies, as well as the under-rated I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program and Culver’s efforts to promote passenger rail.

In addition, while Culver was governor Iowa handled its federal stimulus money well. For instance, our state turned around the transportation funding from the stimulus quickly and spent most of it on worthwhile projects.

On the whole, Culver was a good governor under difficult circumstances. It is grossly unfair that Republicans including Terry Branstad were able to push false narratives about “deficit spending” and I-JOBS borrowing. Independent analysts such as the three leading bond rating agencies agreed that Iowa managed its finances very well during the worst recession in 60 years.

Despite those facts, I am skeptical that Culver would have a good chance to beat Branstad in 2014. Life is unfair, and I’m afraid that too many people believe Republicans deserve the credit for Iowa’s strong financial condition. Nor have I seen any evidence that a significant number of Branstad voters from 2010 have buyer’s remorse. In part that’s because the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate has blocked some of Branstad’s efforts that would have been unpopular. If Branstad had killed the preschool program, tens of thousands of Iowa families would have felt the impact directly. It’s hard to get people fired up about Branstad trying to eliminate this funding when the Iowa Senate was able to save the day.

On December 26, Culver spoke to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble.

“I’m in no rush,” he said. “I don’t feel any pressure.”

He is considering forming an exploratory campaign committee, a move that would allow him to raise money while not formally declaring his candidacy. Culver said he’s been encouraged to run, both by fellow Democrats and Iowans he’s met informally while running errands around Des Moines.

If Culver forms an exploratory committee, the first major expenditure should be for serious polling and focus groups to see whether he could make an effective case against Branstad. In April 2011, Public Policy Polling found Culver slightly ahead of Branstad in a potential rematch, but in October 2011 the same firm found Branstad would defeat Culver by 51 percent to 40 percent. This year Branstad has had strong approval ratings in surveys by Public Policy Polling and Selzer and Co for the Des Moines Register.

Whoever takes on Branstad in 2014 will have a tough task ahead (and I have no doubt that he will run for a sixth term). I would rather see Democrats nominate a new candidate who can make a fresh case–preferably someone who does not have to give up a current elected office to run for governor.

Branstad is not as polarizing as some of the other Republican governors elected in 2010. He loves campaigning. Culver enjoyed being out on the stump for President Obama, but it’s worth noting that the Obama campaign didn’t schedule a lot of events for Culver in Iowa. In late October, they had him appearing at an event in Florida.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

P.S.- Many Iowa politics-watchers expect Branstad to face a primary challenge in 2014, but I haven’t heard any specific names mentioned. The governor would easily defeat a GOP primary challenger in my opinion. He’s not nearly as unpopular now as he was in 1994, when he barely survived the challenge from Republican U.S. Representative Fred Grandy.

  • This is good analysis

    The first threshold Iowa Democrats must consider (and this was played out in the comments to your Christmas thread) is whether Branstad can be beaten, whether the 6th time’s a charm.

    If Democrats are looking for a sacrifical lamb to go yell at Branstad for a year, then I think that’s a different kind of candidate than the one we would select if we believed we were selecting the next Governor.  

    So let’s have that discussion. My take: we can win. Branstad is beatable. Here’s the case for ’14 being the year:

    – no judges on the ballot to fire up the western Iowa base as in 2010.

    – Sen. Harkin at the top of the ticket to pull up turnout (see ’02 when Harkin was a huge help to Vilsack in a tough year.)

    – Fewer voters with an emotional investment in Branstad (at the start of ’10, 1/3 of Iowa voters didnt know who he was. The number of voters evaluating him on just this one term will be high.)

    – Iowa continues to moderate on issues that help us, like gay marriage and the environment.

    – An amazing voter ID and targeting operation left over from a successful Obama effort here.

    – campaign politics evolving away from television ads as the sole vehicle for motivation and persuasion.

    • if Branstad is beatable

      then I question whether the strongest candidate is someone already rejected by Iowa voters and known to more than 90 percent of the likely 2014 electorate. Michael Dukakis was a great governor and would have been a good president. That doesn’t mean he would have been best positioned to take Poppy Bush down in 1992.

      It would be nice to see some new polling on Branstad vs a generic Democrat and vs several named challengers, including Culver.

      • Culver

        Chet could wait and frankly I think it would be the end of his political career if he were to take on Branstad again in 2014.  

        He could keep his prospects alive by waiting until 2018 for Governor or 2016 if Grassley were to retire and he wanted to run in a primary.  I would likely support Chet in any primary.  

        There are a lot of business leaders around the state who would make compelling candidates for Governor, but you want to get a long with the current administration or else they could put the hammer down.

        Jack Hatch is the one candidate who I think makes the most sense, but he would be boring in the eyes of most voters.

        • Beatable

          I think Terry could be beaten, but only by the right candidate. He’s just got so much baggage on so many fronts. That is a long post for another day.

          I preface my comments here by saying I am not a “politico” so I may not know anything. I just think reasonable voters of both parties have had enough. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but just in talking to people, my sense is parties are beginning to lose their grip on the process and the right candidates can be successful. And most important,  people are waking up to the fact that elections matter.

          In my part of the state, I point to the success of Susan Judkins, who would’ve won if 23 more votes could’ve been found in her Republican District.  John Forbes in GOP Urbandale.

          People have had enough of open sewers masquerading as lakes and streams.  They’ve had enough of corporate welfare. They don’t care about gay marriage. They don’t want ideologues. They want people with track records of success, not political hacks. And some people like that are stepping up.  Todd Prichard in HD 52 looks like someone who doesn’t need the aggravation, but is getting involved anyway.

          Also, I think if a candidate can speak to issues important to urban, and suburban voters, they can win.  That’s where the votes are.

          The question is – who is that person?  Fred Hubbell? Barry Griswell?  Someone of their ilk from Eastern Iowa?

          I don’t think it is Chet Culver.  Who is NOT re-elected to Governor of Iowa?  All you have to do is basically show up, and he was MIA for most of the first half of his term, except for the ’08 Floods.  PJ ran the show, as everyone knows.  By the time CC got engaged, it was too late.  

          Jack Hatch is a smart guy, but will not generate the enthusiasm necessary to be successful, IMHO. I just think people will view him as just another politician.

          Given TB’s perceived invincibility, how about something different – a successful woman, with some name recognition but without a lot of political baggage, a person who could speak to the concerns of all Iowans, but also can hone in on the metro areas, like the overwhelming majority who voted in favor of the watershed referendum in Polk County.

          Where is this person?

          • Branstad's approval numbers are decent

            He has baggage, but for now I don’t think a majority of Iowans are aware of this baggage.

          • no culver

            Sue Dvorsky? I don’t think Culver would have a chance against Branstad. I’ve heard him speak and was less than impressed. I’ve heard that he was lazy on the campaign trail in 2010. Stumping for Obama and running for governor are two totally different tasks

            • Thoughts

              Chet knew that once Branstad got the nomination that his goose was cooked.  He would probably deny that, but we all know better.  

              I’m glad Patty Judge was running the show if that was the case.  I would have preferred Patty for the nomination in 2006 before she dropped out.  My mother and I went over to the booth her campaign had set up at the Harkin Steak Fry and they seemed surprised that I was a supporter LOL.

              I’m not going to get into a debate over corporate “welfare” on here.  The people who complain the loudest about the fertilizer plants in rural communities are from Des Moines and Iowa City, cities where if you lose a job you have fifty more opportunities staring you in the face.

              I’m from Lee County, we’ve been voting for union friendly reps my whole life and if the pay of instructors is the reason why we can’t get economic development projects then it isn’t our fault.

              • so frustrating

                because I will always believe that Branstad was the only person who could have denied the GOP nomination to Bob Vander Plaats, and I will always believe that Culver could have beaten BVP.

                • Maybe, maybe not

                  Branstad et al wanted Mary Andringa to run, but she wouldn’t do it.  With the Branstad machine behind her, I think she would’ve beaten BVP AND Culver.

                  • no way

                    BVP was in a position to crush everyone else in the primary, including Mary Andringa. I will admit that she probably could have beaten Culver, though.

                    • Primaries

                      Andringa probably would have defeated Culver unless his team stirred up some controversy on her.  I think just about every candidate that Branstad recruits seems to be having a hard time on a statewide and local basis in the primaries, except for Branstad himself.  Didn’t he recruit Chip Baltimore?  He’s one of the few that has had success that I can think of.

                      • primaries

                        I think Branstad has recruited several Iowa House and Senate candidates who did not have to face a primary, and Chip Baltimore (from Boone) was one of them. But you are right, when it comes to competitive GOP primaries, Branstad’s endorsed candidates have not done well at all (Mary Rathje in Senate district 18 special, Adam Schweers in Senate district 6, Larry McKibben in Senate district 36, and most recently Dan Feuling in House district 52).

  • Open Thread - Different Topic

    HRC has beed admitted to NYC hospital for treatment of a blood clot, lending credence to my theory that there may be more going on here than dehydration and a concussion.  Best wishes to her, of course.  

    • a concussion

      can certainly cause a blood clot. Glad they caught it–those can become life-threatening quickly.

    • more details

      on her condition here.

      In an update from her doctors, Clinton’s brain scans revealed a clot had formed in the right transverse venous sinus, and she was being successfully treated with anticoagulants.

      “She is lucky being Hillary Clinton and had a follow-up MRI — lucky that her team thought to do it,” said Dr. Brian D. Greenwald, medical director at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center for Head Injuries. “It could have potentially serious complications.”

      The backup of blood flow could have caused a stroke or hemorrhage, according to Greenwald. […]

      A transverse sinus thrombosis is a clot arising in one of the major veins that drains the brain. It is an uncommon but serious disorder.

      According to Greenwald, the clot was most likely caused by dehydration brought on by the flu, perhaps exacerbated by a concussion she recently suffered.

      “The only time I have seen it happen is when people are severely dehydrated and it causes the blood to be so thick that it causes a clot in the area,” said Greenwald. “It’s one of the long-term effects of a viral illness.”

  • Branstad's future depends on the next 2 sessions

    of the legislature. His popularity is pretty good now, but that could drop if he’s too stubborn on some issues. His decision to turn down Medicaid expansion won’t help him (but he may cave on that when he hears from the hospital administrators). Other issues include commercial property taxes, higher ed funding, and responding to EPA pressure to clean up Iowa’s dirty water.

    Eighteen months ago I thought he probably wouldn’t run again. I thought he just ran in 2010 to stop BVP in order to prevent Culver’s re-election. He’ll be 68 in 2014. Now I’m not so sure.

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