While in central Iowa to cover New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s event with Dallas County Republicans this evening, Robert Costa of the Washington Post interviewed Governor Terry Branstad today. Here’s what passes for breaking news: Branstad told Costa that he is not likely to seek a seventh term in 2018 and is “grooming” Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to succeed him.
“I’ve had the great honor and opportunity to serve the people of Iowa, and I want to do this job and do it well,” Branstad said. “Kim Reynolds would be the best choice to be the next governor.”
If Branstad serves through the end of this year, he will become the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, eclipsing George Clinton, who served 21 years as governor of New York during and after the Revolutionary War.
“I need to serve through December 14 or 15 of this year to break his record, so I’m on the way already, I just have to continue to serve one year into this term,” he said.
Branstad has been saying for a long time that he is determined to make Reynolds the next governor. Breaking with Iowa tradition of sending the lieutenant governor to events the governor can’t attend in person, he continues to bring Reynolds along to most of his public appearances. Press releases from the governor’s office continue to refer to the governor and lieutenant governor as a single unit consistently in what appears to be a branding effort to associate Reynolds’ name with Branstad’s.
I am 100 percent convinced that Branstad will resign well before his term ends in order to allow Reynolds to run for governor in 2018 as an incumbent. (I see two likely windows for the resignation, either shortly after the 2016 general election or shortly after the 2017 Iowa legislative session.) Reynolds would struggle to win a statewide Republican primary if she were not the incumbent, because she didn’t have a strong constituency within the GOP base before holding her current position. On the contrary, hardly anyone outside her Iowa Senate district had heard of Reynolds when Branstad picked her to be his running mate.
Even if Reynolds becomes governor before 2018, I doubt she will have smooth sailing in the GOP primary. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is likely to run for governor and will be well-funded. I expect some candidate to emerge from the social conservative wing as well.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.