Will he or won’t he? The constant speculation over Terry Branstad coming out of retirement and running for a fifth term as Iowa governor continues.
However, in my mind the speculation has been over for weeks now, because he’s running and the signs saying so are obvious, not the least of which is the fact either he or his people have contacted and/or met with nearly every Republican constituency group of consequence in the last few weeks.
So assuming he is already in and we’re just waiting for him to make it official, the discussion now turns to what must he do to unify a very fractured Republican Party and do something a lot of Iowans in recent polling data would like to see done—defeat Lt. Governor Debt Culver.
Branstad has not run a campaign for 15 years, and a lot has changed both ideologically and tactically in that time. Just throwing his name on the ballot and appealing to party loyalist nostalgia won’t be good enough for him to beat Culver, let alone win the primary of a very fractured party. Not to mention the fact that he’s got the most extensive record of any of the Republican candidates, which means on one hand he’s the most known quantity but on the other hand he’s got the most to defend.
In my opinion, Branstad needs more than an “I’m the Republican that can win” message, and the current ideological environment calls for something more than “I’ll spend a little less and grow government a little slower than the Democrats will.” Especially since expectations for him will be sky-high because his reputation precedes him, so he needs to come out of the gate strong.
If the recent public statements and private activities of he and his supporters are any indication, it appears their strategy is to create the illusion that Branstad winning the primary is inevitable, so to oppose him is almost an act of disloyalty to the cause of beating Culver, and his opposition would be nothing more than your “grouchy old uncle.” In other words, wing-nuts who are never satisfied and are the reason in their minds the Democrats are in power.
If I were going to run a campaign that was going to attempt to win without those grassroots wing-nuts that believe in the party platform, I would probably pursue a strategy of running on the cult of my personality as well. Yet those wing-nuts will disproportionately make up the voters in next June’s primary, so it remains to be seen if there are enough votes left over for that strategy to be successful, or if the other candidates will so split the conservative vote that Branstad can still hit the threshold to avoid a convention with what’s left over.
If that second scenario is successful in winning the primary, it may prove lethal come general election time. Recent history has demonstrated that Republicans who don’t shore up their base in the primary are constantly defending the rear flank in the fall, and then never really get to go on the offensive in the general election. Cynically, the Polk County Moderate Mafia could say, “Who cares, because independents are the biggest voting block in Iowa and they hate Culver, so we can without the base.”
Except they can’t, because a good portion of those independents are people who were once Republicans, and left the party because they felt it left them—with an emphasis on the word “left.” How do I know this? Because they’re one of the strongest factions of my listening audience, that’s how, and WHO is the only statewide media entity left in Iowa. Dissent with both parties is growing, just as our afternoon drive ratings share is, and those aren’t mutually exclusive developments nor are they coincidences.
So what should Branstad do if he wants to win over these folks and thus win the election? That’s a question a mutual friend of Branstad and I recently asked me as we were sizing up this race. Off the top of my head, I gave him some suggestions, which I will share with you now:
1. Vow to issue the executive order re-establishing the separation of powers on day one in office.
Perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve seen so far in the GOP gubernatorial primary is all of the other candidates letting Bob Vander Plaats have the exclusive high road on the most hot-button issue of them all. Hopefully, Branstad is smarter than this. It’s obvious our Founding Fathers did not intend for us to have we the people under the jurisdiction of laws passed by people we didn’t elect, because that is the very unjust system they revolted against. Respected conservative thinkers like Newt Gingrich and David Barton have backed Vander Plaats on this. A majority of Republicans in Doug Gross’ poll, and almost half of the independents as well as a third of Democrats, backed Vander Plaats’ executive order to stop sodomy marriage in its tracks on day one despite the question claiming it would cause a Constitutional crisis (when we’re already in one thanks to the Iowa Supreme Court). If Branstad took this issue off the table, while demonstrating he has really thought about what’s at stake here and isn’t just doing this for political purposes, he would instantly and seriously damage Vander Plaats’ campaign. Not to mention the fact he would rally his base and lend his name to an important battle that is vital if we are to resurrect the Republic for which it stands.
2. Support the most restrictive prohibitions on Kelo in the nation.
Private property rights are under attack in Iowa by greedy developers and even greedier bureaucrats who want your land. The idea that the government can confiscate your land for private developers is almost as un-American as Fair Share, and that’s why a few years ago we saw something with this issue we don’t normally see in Iowa—an override of a gubernatorial veto. Branstad should stand for the most restrictive prohibitions on this injustice in the nation, especially given how important property rights are in an agricultural state like ours.
3. Repeal all increases in taxes and fees since he left office, eliminate all statewide tax burdens on corporations and small business, and repeat the 10% across the board tax cut he signed into law in 1997.
Since we have pay-as-you-go budgeting in Iowa, the spending cuts will take care of themselves if you cut taxes because the budgeting will have to respond to the revenue. Of course, there’s the little fact that the lower taxes are the more revenue that gets generated, but I digress. It’s time to reject the idea, once and for all, that it’s our responsibility to pay for their outrageous spending and start with the premise they’re already getting enough of our money. If they still can’t run the state on the billions we’d still be giving them even after these cuts, that’s a them problem not an us problem.
4. Propose legislation similar to what Arizona and Oklahoma have enacted to deal with illegal immigration.
Trying to deal with the supply problem doesn’t work, because the demand for indentured servitude from Latin America doesn’t go away. That’s why you have to go after those that are generating the market for it in the first place, and that would be the employers who are bringing them here and hiring them. Illegal immigration drives down wages, and whatever these workers are paying in taxes is more than balanced out by the societal costs incurred as we cover their education, healthcare, etc.
5. End the monopoly the Left has on public education and introduce specific measures to increase competition.
Right now two-thirds of the entire state budget is dedicated to the Leftist monopoly on public education. That’s not just immoral, it’s also bad policy. Republicans traditionally think competition is good for the consumer, so why not introduce a little to the expenditure that consumes a super majority of the state budget? It’s time to stand up to the ISEA/NEA (who recently admitted they’re just out to indoctrinate our kids), provide the most gracious tax incentives for private and charter schools in the nation, enact the freest homeschooling laws in the country, repeal the model core curriculum/anti-bullying psychobabble signed into law by Culver, and come up with a system that really rewards excellence in the teaching profession.
6. Propose at least a 10-year moratorium on all gambling in Iowa.
Remember when Spock pointed out “only Nixon could go to China.” Who better to put the gambling pimps who dominate state government back in their place than the man that really opened Pandora’s Box for them in the first place? I might also suggest bringing in an outside consulting firm with no ties to the casino industry to truly study the economic impact of the proliferation of casinos and river boats in Iowa to boot. The relationship these gambling pimps have with state government on both sides of the aisle is beyond incestuous.
7. Make states like Texas jealous.
It’s time for Iowa to embrace the Second Amendment as it has never done before, especially at a time when government is embracing its power as it has never done before.
8. Select a truly pro-life running mate.
And by pro-life I don’t mean “we kill a little less than the Democrats do,” but rather someone who has actually demonstrated courage of conviction on the issue in either personal or public life. My momma taught me that if you make the mess, you should clean it up. Since Branstad gave the pro-Planned Parenthood Joy Corning a statewide presence in Republican Party politics, he should take out his own trash.
If you read carefully, you’ll find that all of these issues are either directly or indirectly supported by the Republican Party of Iowa platform. Therefore, all that’s really being asked of Branstad here is to just be a Republican.
For the life of me, if someone really cares about this state and the future for the next generation, I don’t know why they wouldn’t support these things. Supporting these things would not only be the politically smart thing to do, they would also be the right thing to do.
By supporting them Branstad would send a message that he is coming out of retirement primarily because he cares about Iowa, and not because he’s a proxy for Polk County or moderate/big-money interests that need a champion because they don’t have another one.
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