New Branstad running mate speculation thread

It might seem presumptuous to talk about former Governor Terry Branstad’s running mate when the guy finished fifth in a Republican straw poll last week, but bear with me.

Branstad has work to do with the social conservative wing of the Iowa GOP. Those voters carried him in the 1982 and 1994 Republican primaries, but in those races, he faced more moderate opponents. The current GOP field has no moderates, and Bob Vander Plaats is campaigning against Branstad from the right.

Last week Branstad tried to reassure prominent figures on the religious right about his intentions. Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart attended this meeting and felt it did not go well for Branstad. Mike Demastus had less kind words for the former governor after the meeting. The posts by Vander Hart and Demastus are must-reads, and I’ll have more to say about them in the future. The most important things I learned from Vander Hart:

1) Branstad is promising to choose a conservative running mate:

Joy Corning was addressed, and again she was picked [as lieutenant governor] for purely political reasons. He says that he’d pick a younger conservative this time around.

If Branstad made this promise to a group of social conservatives, then we can be fairly certain that pro-choice former State Representative Libby Jacobs won’t be his running mate.

2) Branstad also said he isn’t planning another “marathon” as governor:

He wants to position himself to prepare a future leader who he can hand the baton off to.

It sounds as if Branstad hinted that his running mate won’t just be window dressing for the election. Rather, his choice for lieutenant governor will be the person he wants to succeed him as governor. It wasn’t always the case; remember, Branstad endorsed Jim Ross Lightfoot over Corning in the 1998 gubernatorial primary.

When I ask people what they’ve heard about Branstad’s future running mate, one name keeps coming up: Doug Reichardt. Let’s talk this over after the jump.

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Democratic leaders enabled Branstad's big money haul

Until last week, the money raised to support Terry Branstad as a gubernatorial candidate was hidden in the bank accounts of two 527 groups: the Iowa First Foundation and the Draft Branstad PAC. Now that Branstad has formed an exploratory committee, I expect we’ll soon see a press release about eye-popping early money raised for his campaign. Major Republican donors were key players in the effort to lure the former governor back into politics.

While Branstad’s signing all those thank-you notes to Republicans, he may as well acknowledge three Democrats who have helped him raise the big bucks: Governor Chet Culver, Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. Branstad wouldn’t be able to accept those $25,000 and $50,000 checks if Democrats had passed meaningful campaign finance reform during the past three years.

This rant continues after the jump.

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Too bad--No Branstad for Governor

I’m so disappointed in Terry Branstad. I had a post in my head about why he won’t get back into politics and was all set to write it when he scooped me by telling the Des Moines Register that he won’t run against Governor Chet Culver next year.

It’s a smart move for Branstad. He served four terms as governor already and has a good job as president of Des Moines University. Why give that up to seek the Republican nomination, which would be far from a sure thing?

I know, a recent Republican poll showed that

Nearly half of likely Iowa voters said they wanted their next governor to be a lot or somewhat like Branstad [….] About a third said they wanted someone somewhat or very different from Branstad.

A generic GOP candidate described in the poll as “a widely respected, former statewide elected official who has managed Iowa through troubled times before” rated highest in the poll. Branstad’s tenure coincided with the Iowa farm crisis of the 1980s.

Despite those poll findings, I don’t think Branstad would have had a smooth ride in the GOP primary. As a three-term sitting governor he nearly lost the 1994 primary to Congressman Fred Grandy. I bet a lot of Republicans wish they could have that one back–with Governor Grandy as an incumbent Iowans probably would not have elected Tom Vilsack or any other Democrat in 1998.

In the middle of his fourth term as governor, Branstad backed Lamar Alexander for president. We all saw how influential that endorsement was in the 1996 caucuses.

Even if Iowa Republicans were eager to nominate Branstad for governor again, would that be smart when the public already views Republicans as “backward-looking” and Democrats as “the party of the future”?

I’ll have more to say about the recent Republican poll in the next few days. I wasn’t surprised to read that Vermeer Corporation chief executive Mary Andringa also told the Des Moines Register that she’s not running for governor next year. Republican moderates like Doug Gross want a candidate from the business community, but I don’t think Culver looks vulnerable enough now. Leaving a senior corporate job to run a serious campaign for governor is a big risk. Even the Republican poll, which had a fairly high ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the sample, found Culver at 52 percent approval and 35 percent disapproval. Culver’s re-elect numbers are somewhat lower, but I stand by my opinion that he is not yet in the danger zone for an incumbent.

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