Out of the four candidates included in The Iowa Republican Gubernatorial Straw Poll, Jeff Lamberti has been the least committed to officially running. A number of people have mentioned his name as someone they would like to see run, and he has also said publicly that he is considering a run, which is why he is included in the straw poll.
Lamberti spent time in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate before deciding to run for Congress in 2006. Lamberti’s experience in the Iowa legislature set him up nicely for his 2006 congressional campaign, and now that campaign, which has been the closest Republicans have come to knocking off Leonard Boswell in years, could set him up nicely for a 2010 gubernatorial run.
If 2006 hadn’t turned out to be a terrible year for Republicans across the country, it is likely that Lamberti would be sitting in Congress right now. His campaign commercials and speeches were never flashy, but he executed the fundamentals of a campaign extremely well. With current Governor Chet Culver having been the chief architect of unbalanced budgets, out-of-control spending, legalized gay marriage, and a bonding scheme which plunged the state into debt for the next 20 years, having a candidate who can execute the fundamentals of a solid statewide campaign might be exactly what Iowa Republicans need.
Here are just a few of Lamberti’s strengths as a gubernatorial candidate.
Lamberti’s experiences in the legislature, and especially his time as the President of the Senate, have allowed him an up-close view of how the Governor and legislative leaders interact. Having previous experiences like those are great for a candidate to refer back to and use if elected. One of the most important attributes a candidate can have is an ability to convey competence, and that is exactly what Lamberti’s previous experiences would allow him to do.
Without his 2006 congressional campaign, Lamberti would be in a similar situation to that of Chris Rants and Paul McKinley in terms of fundraising. In his 2006 campaign, Lamberti proved to be an excellent fundraiser. In that campaign, Lamberti raised over $1.7 million compared to Congressman Boswell’s $2.1 million haul. Not bad against an incumbent in a year that saw the GOP Gubernatorial candidate (Jim Nussle) dominate the fundraising landscape.
One could argue that Lamberti could easily outperform the $1.7 million he raised for his congressional campaign given that state elections in Iowa are not subject to individual contribution limits. He also has an advantage that no other candidate in the race has – an expansive donor file that allows him to target his fundraising activities. There is a difference between a donor giving to help get you elected and a donor giving to help keep or regain majority status in a legislative chamber. Lamberti has raised a lot of money for himself, and that is significant difference between him and others who are running.
Unlike Chris Rants and Bob Vander Plaats who come from the same part of the state, Jeff Lamberti is the only candidate who could be described as a Polk county candidate. While some people from other parts of the state are not fond of Polk County candidates, you hunt where the birds are, and there are an awful lot of voters sitting in central Iowa.
Having run for congress, Lamberti also should have an existing list of volunteers and supporters. Lamberti’s name ID is also high in central Iowa, so while he might have to work to be better known outside of the Des Moines media market, it’s not as if his opponents posses huge state-wide name recognition either. With the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Lamberti might also be able to get South Side Des Moines Democrats to come over and play in the Republican primary. If that happens, he would be difficult to beat inside Polk County.
Maybe one of Lamberti’s greatest assets is the fact that his 2006 campaign for Congress left voters encouraged about his campaign rather than rejected. When you look at both Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants, the first thing that many people bring up is the fact that Vander Plaats is a two-time loser, and Rants took a Republican majority in the Iowa House and ended up in the minority, and then he was ousted by his colleagues this past winter. Lamberti doesn’t carry the same sort of baggage, and he is better known to more donors, activists, and voters than Paul McKinley.
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