IA-Gov: Branstad campaign moves to undercut challenge to Kim Reynolds

Supporters of Ron Paul dominated the delegate slates at the 2012 Iowa Republican county conventions, district conventions, and the state convention.

Now Governor Terry Branstad’s re-election campaign is recruiting loyalists to become convention delegates next year, in an apparent effort to prevent any Republican faction from mounting a serious challenge to Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

Branstad still hasn’t officially announced his re-election plans, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he plans to seek a sixth term. He held a huge campaign fundraiser for his birthday last month and recently raised money from donors in Texas.

As Bleeding Heartland has discussed before, the governor’s campaign messaging invariably mentions Lieutenant Governor Reynolds as a critical member of the “team.” Press releases always quote Reynolds as well as Branstad, and supporters of the campaign talk about “the governor and lieutenant governor” as a unit. The most recent example came in a December 4 press release announcing former Hy-Vee lobbyist Rose Mitchell as campaign chairwoman.

“Governor Branstad and I are pleased to have Rose on our team serving as campaign chairwoman,” Reynolds said. “Rose’s ability to connect with Iowans and lead on innovative initiatives fits perfectly with our focus of building a strong state-wide team and offering policy that builds Iowa for the future.”

“Under Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, Iowa’s unemployment rate has dropped to a low 4.6 percent, we’ve gone from a $900 million budget deficit to a $900 million budget surplus, invested a record amount in Iowa’s schools and Iowans received the largest tax cut in the state’s history,” Mitchell said. “It’s an honor to serve the governor and lieutenant governor in this capacity and I look forward to sharing their message of low unemployment, fiscal stability, transformational education reform, economic development and job creation.”

For most of Iowa’s history, the governor and lieutenant governor were elected separately. But since 1998 1990, candidates for governor have selected their own running mates, who were approved at each party’s state convention. Most of the time convention delegates have rubber-stamped the choice of whoever won the party’s primary. However, at the Iowa GOP’s 2010 state convention, renegade supporters of Bob Vander Plaats attempted to elect him as the lieutenant governor nominee in place of Reynolds, at that time a virtually unknown first-term state senator. The final delegate vote was surprisingly close: 749 for Reynolds, 579 for Vander Plaats.

In August, Mike Glover reported rumors that GOP activists may attempt to replace Reynolds on the ticket at the 2014 state convention.

Some worry she isn’t conservative enough, while others worry about whether she could win a statewide election. They’ve begun talking about the potential of using next year’s State Republican Convention as a vehicle for replacing Reynolds. While gubernatorial candidates traditionally can pick their running mates, that selection must be ratified at that convention. There’s talk brewing about a showdown. It’s far from clear how serious that talk is being taken, but the fact that it’s going on is important.

The Republican State Convention is traditionally dominated by conservative activists, who would likely be open to the concept of a more conservative running mate.

“I do know there is a lot of concern out there,” said one GOP strategist. “I think it’s a threat.”

“I have heard the postulate going around,” said another strategist.

Branstad quickly told reporters, “We’re not afraid of any challenge.” Meanwhile, his campaign showed off more than 1,000 volunteers to serve as county co-chairs.

Now the Branstad campaign is stepping up efforts to recruit convention delegates. As of yesterday, the front page of the Branstad-Reynolds website reminds supporters,

The 2014 Iowa Caucus is

January 21, 2014

Sign up to be a delegate for the Branstad-Reynolds team at the 2014 Iowa Caucus on January 21, 2014.

Visit our new caucus website for more information.

Clicking through to that website, you see all the relevant dates (January 21 for precinct caucuses, March 8 for county conventions, April 26 for district conventions, and June 14 for the state convention). Volunteers can enter their contact information as a video starts rolling in which Reynolds “explains the importance of attending the 2014 precinct caucuses.”

Note that Reynolds doesn’t say a thing about defending her position on the ticket. It’s all about helping Republicans “up and down the ballot.” Excerpt:

By supporting Branstad-Reynolds delegates through the caucus and conventions, or being one yourself, you’ll help us build a strong Republican Party, that will allow us to keep Terrace Hill [the governor’s office] in Republican hands make sure a Republican takes Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate seat, re-elect our great GOP congressmen, fight for the first and second Congressional districts, take back the Iowa Senate, and hold the state House. We want all Republicans in Iowa to speak with one united voice in support of our candidates when 2,000 delegates converge in Des Moines for the state convention. And it all starts with you and your family and friends attending the caucuses in January.

I don’t expect a challenge to Reynolds to succeed at the GOP state convention next summer, but Branstad’s team are wise to take no chances. The “Liberty” wing of the Republican Party may not be as energized as they were by Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, but they may be highly motivated to dominate convention slates again. I’ll be interested to see the turnout numbers from the caucuses in January. Traditionally, turnout is extremely low at off-year caucuses, with perhaps a handful of activists showing up in a typical precinct.

Even if no serious challenge materializes to the lieutenant governor, the makeup of the state convention could become important if no GOP candidate for U.S. Senate wins at least 35 percent in June primary. Then state convention delegates would select the nominee to face Democrat Bruce Braley.

Please share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

  • Reynolds

    If they were smart, they would just try to beat Reynolds in 2018.  I don’t think that it will be too difficult to defeat her then.  

    • I think Branstad will resign

      in the middle of his next term if he is re-elected.

      There is no way Reynolds could win a statewide primary as a non-incumbent. Her only chance would be to serve as governor for a year or two before the 2018 primary. Even then she might not win a primary.

      • Agreed

        I am confident that she will get a strong Republican challenger in 2018 regardless of what the situation is.  I think Branstad’s resignation and switcheroo could cause even more anger amongst the Liberty wing.  

        • she would be challenged for sure

          Who knows what the Liberty wing will look like by that time. Rand Paul may flame out before then.

  • small correction

    Constitutional amendment that made gov/lt gov a ticket, and also removed lt gov’s role as Senate president, passed in 1988. First time governor candidates named running mates was 1990.

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