Is the third time the charm for Vander Plaats?
Let’s face it, until Mike Huckabee shocked the nation by winning the Iowa Caucuses comfortably Vander Plaats was being laughed at by party moderates as “the never-ending candidate.” Vander Plaats lost out to Terry Branstad…err…I mean Doug Gross in 2002. And then waved the white flag before the primary in 2006 to become Jim Nussle’s running mate.
But Huckabee’s win resurrected Vander Plaats statewide political presence, and in the past month since Varnum vs. Brien a new BVP has emerged that is much different than the old one. Even my WHO broadcast partner Jan Mickelson, who might be more naturally cynical than even I am, told me recently he’s seen a totally different Vander Plaats this time around.
If the primary were held today I have little doubt the former high school principle would best this four-man field, but the primary isn’t held today. The daily anonymous posts attacking him on websites like this from moderates and operatives of candidates Vander Plaats helped defeat in the Caucuses provide anecdotal evidence of who the current frontrunner is.
The reality is there are establishment figures from both Polk County and Western Iowa who will allow Vander Plaats to become the GOP gubernatorial nominee over their dead bodies, so I believe he needs to two things to ultimately emerge victorious next year:
1) Stay aggressive on the campaign trail and not be afraid to campaign against his own party establishment. After all, last I checked Republicans still ranked third in voter registrations in this state, so the same party establishment that dislikes Vander Plaats is also disliked by most voters in Iowa at the moment—especially conservatives (I know, because nobody talks to more of them across the state than I do). This is Vander Plaats last political go-around, so he’d be wise to just let it all hang out since he’s got nothing to lose.
2) Show that he has the depth of knowledge on the marriage/separation of powers issue, as well as sincere moral conviction, so that he can be the ideological pace car his opponents are trying to catch, as opposed to those same opponents successfully denigrating his principled stance on the issue as just election year posturing.
If he does those two things I believe Vander Plaats will be the GOP’s 2010 gubernatorial nominee. If he doesn’t he won’t.
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