There is still a lot of political chatter out there following TheIowaRepublican.com gubernatorial poll. This is especially true in regard to how former Governor Terry Branstad did in a head-to-head match-up against current Iowa Governor Chet Culver. Branstad crushed Culver by 16 points.
Since the polling results were announced, Iowa Republicans have been contemplating two questions. The first question – is will Branstad actually run? Only Branstad can answer that question. Thus far, the former governor has side-stepped the question by saying that he is focused on Des Moines University, but then he says he would never rule anything out. Until Branstad gives a solid yes or no answer, the chatter about a potential reemergence into politics will remain.
The second question is – should Branstad run for governor? This is where radio talk show hosts, bloggers, and columnists are having a field day. If you talk to ten Republican activists, you are likely to get ten different answers. Their responses range from “yes he should definitely because he would win,” to “he should stay out because a Branstad comeback might spark political Armageddon within the Republican Party.”
I’ll be very clear where I come down on this question. I have no problem with Governor Branstad if he should mount a comeback and seek the Republican nomination for Governor. There’s a lot he could bring to the race. That statement is by no means a slight to the current candidates in the race. In fact, I might be one of the few Iowa Republicans who thinks the current slate of candidates is strong and diverse. However, if former Governor Branstad does run for governor, he should do so because there are issues that he cares deeply about, not because he beats Culver in a head-to-head poll.
I have always been a proponent of primaries. I think primaries are a healthy exercise that political parties can use to grow registration numbers and find new volunteers and activists. Yet, somehow the word “primary” has become a bad word for Republicans. That might be why we haven’t had many contested primaries since 2002. That is the year in which Republicans had a number of hotly contested primaries for US Senate, 5th District Congress, and governor.
There has also been increased chatter about Congressman Steve King running for the Republican nomination. Again, as Republicans, we should welcome all candidates into this race because it will make our party stronger in the long run.
It is inconceivable that any one candidate exists who possesses all of the great ideas and proposals that our state needs to become admired again. A respectful but vigorous gubernatorial primary would act as a brainstorming session. Think about the number of ideas that could be produced in a primary environment like that. Republicans already have candidates with ideas about how to rein in the runaway court system and reform Iowa’s property tax system, but we need more. We need ideas about health care, agriculture, business climate, education, and the list could go on and on.
However, political campaigns have a tendency to get a little too personal. If you are a supporter of one particular campaign, you don’t think it’s necessary for new candidates to emerge. That’s simple human nature, but we need to have a diverse group of candidates so that we are exploring as many issues as possible.
I think there is room for both Congressman King and former Governor Terry Branstad in this race. King brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion to everything he does. He is also a principled conservative who’s not afraid to try new things. King, a big proponent of the Fair Tax, might want to just eliminate all income tax altogether. It is discussions like this which will enable our party to move forward. The same is true for Governor Branstad. There would not be a better candidate out there to advance conservative solutions to our state’s health care issues.
The Republican Party has long been the party of ideas. Unfortunately, we have surrendered the war on issues and instead have only looked to promote candidates who we think can win the general election. We should embrace the upcoming primary no matter who the candidates are, and we should encourage them to make it about the important issues of the day.
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