Former governor Terry Branstad held a press conference last Friday announcing his decision to retire as Des Moines University’s President. Branstad told the media that the reason for his retirement was so that he could fully explore the possibility of running for governor in 2010. Branstad didn’t say anything out of the ordinary in his press conference, but it did allow us a glimpse of what kind of candidate he will be in the Republican primary and the general election should he be successful next June.
Unlike his lesser-known rivals, Branstad remains well-known all across the state. While it’s obvious that he has aged since leaving office over ten years ago, his voice is uniquely identifiable, his quick wit holds your attention, and his story telling abilities equal that of some of our greatest politicians. Branstad was his strongest last Friday when taking questions from the media. His remarks before taking questions were solid, but Branstad shined when pressed by the Iowa media corps. If there is any question whether he is still a gifted politician, he passed the test with flying colors.
A number of people, including his main primary opponent Bob Vander Plaats, believe that Branstad’s return to politics has some Republicans looking back to the past, not to the future. In a press release sent out following Branstad’s press conference, Vander Plaats said, “While those who have encouraged Governor Branstad to run have been focused firmly on Iowa’s past, I look forward to continuing my conversation with Iowans about our future.”
One could argue that it is his opponents who have been stuck in the past. Branstad’s record has already been under attack for months from his Republican primary opponents and some Democrats. When answering a question about the sales tax increases that occurred while he was governor, Branstad said, “I will be glad to debate anybody on my record on taxes, but this isn’t about the past, it’s about the future.”
Branstad’s press conference wasn’t as backwards looking as his opponents might have hoped it would be. Yes, Branstad touted the $900 million surplus that was in place when he left office and the ten percent across-the-board tax cut, but he didn’t spend the majority of his time reminiscencing. Branstad was most interested in tackling the current problems the state is facing. He also stated that he wants to visit the campuses of Iowa’s colleges and universities to talk to young people about the future of the state.
What went under-reported by the news media were the remarks Branstad delivered to the students, faculty, and board members of Des Moines University before Friday’s press conference. That speech was closed to the media, but his remarks were provided to the media following his press conference. Buried on page five, Branstad addressed why he’s leaving Des Moines University, and why he would even consider running for governor again.
The following is a section of Branstad’s remarks to Des Moines University.
“I suppose a few of you have heard that many Iowans have asked me to use my experience here and my knowledge of state government to, once again, lead our state. You may wonder why I would even consider it: I love it here.
And, why would I want to run for something that would result in a 50% pay cut, and work on holidays like Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day? That is a good question: Why? But my answer to any challenge that I have ever faced in my life is: Why not?
Why not help the State of Iowa recover from the present budget debacle to once again restore fiscal soundness to our public finances?
Why not use my experience to attract good paying jobs in Iowa?
Why not make sure our kids get the best education in the world?
Why not use what I have learned here at Des Moines University to make sure all Iowans, young and old, get the health care they need?
But most of all, why not once again serve the state I love with every ounce of my being?
You see, my heart aches to see our state in trouble when I know we have it in our power to make it better. These are unprecedented times in our state’s history. They call for unprecedented action.
Thousands of Iowans have asked me to run for governor again, because they believe that this critical time calls for an experienced leader who is willing to make a personal sacrifice, restore stability, and lead by example. They want someone to restore fiscal responsibility and focus on quality jobs, education and health care to achieve a prosperous future for Iowa.”
The above text provides much greater insight into Branstad’s perspective and motivation for seeking office once again. It’s shocking that the traditional media ignored what he had to say to the school in which he has served for six years.
Branstad is currently at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants convention. He returns early this week and will devote his full attention to his gubernatorial run. Branstad says that he only has one speed, “overdrive.” Not only is Branstad a skilled politician, he loves to be out on the campaign trail talking to people. You could see that he enjoyed the press conference last Friday. It’s probably safe to say that Terry Branstad will be in a town near you very soon.
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