Fong announces ten campus coordinators

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong responded to a weekend of renewed speculation surrounding Terry Branstad by announcing that his campaign has recruited campus coordinators at all of Iowa’s leading universities and several colleges. Radio Iowa posted the Fong campaign’s press release, which listed the ten college coordinators and provided this none-too-subtle analysis:

Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager, added, “Considering we are several weeks away from classes starting on campuses across Iowa to already have College Chairs in place is a testament to Christian.  His ability to inspire Iowa’s youth should not be lost on Iowa Republicans as we look to restore the Republican Party.  We’ll continue to work until we have a presence at every university, college and community college in Iowa.”  

The message to Republican bigwigs is clear. Fong is serious about this campaign and is building a strong organization in the GOP’s weakest area: the youth vote. Since colleges will be on summer break by the time next June’s primary rolls around, Fong’s campaign will have to implement an aggressive absentee ballot strategy. Early voting happens to be another area where Iowa Republicans have been getting mauled in recent years.

Perhaps some major donors will give Fong more consideration before leaping to the conclusion that Branstad is their only hope for keeping the nomination away from Bob Vander Plaats. If Branstad stays out, some of the people currently recruiting him might move toward Fong.

Alternatively, if Branstad jumps in, Fong is making himself attractive as a running mate.

When school is back in session, I would welcome diaries, comments or e-mails from Bleeding Heartland readers about how the Republican campaign looks on your campus. Will Vander Plaats have a strong presence at the regents universities and community colleges as well as at some small Christian institutions?

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Fong advocates discrimination very respectfully

Christian Fong is in “reassure the base” mode as he introduces himself to Iowa Republicans. He chose not to confront Steve Deace during his first appearance on the right-winger’s WHO radio show. Then he hired Marlys Popma to run his gubernatorial campaign. A former head of Iowa Right to Life, Popma is well-known to social conservatives.

I’ve seen some bloggers describe Fong as the “moderate” among Republicans running for governor, but it would be more accurate to say he is campaigning as a non-threatening conservative. He promises to expand the Republican Party’s appeal without changing what the party stands for. He’ll do it by talking about the issues in a way that won’t alienate voters outside the GOP base. So, he embraces diversity and a “welcoming environment.” He uses inclusive, empowering language with echoes of Barack Obama. He wants a “pro-family agenda” to go beyond social issues.

We saw this strategy in action during Fong’s first major televised interview, especially in the way he handled the question about same-sex marriage rights.  

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