A couple of days ago, I had a chance to interview former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle. Many of you know that Nussle served in President Bush’s cabinet as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and before that, he served eight terms representing Iowa’s first district in Congress.
For all the attention that the local media has given the various Iowans working in the Obama administration, Nussle’s time at OMB was hardly mentioned, despite the fact that his position is one of the most powerful in Washington.
I first got to know Jim Nussle following redistricting in 2001. I was involved in the fundraising efforts for his 2002 and 2004 congressional campaigns, as well as his 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Over those years I spent a lot of time organizing fundraising events and sitting across the table watching him make fundraising calls. Trust me, if you want to know if someone is a good candidate or not, lock yourself in a room with that person and give him/her a list of people to call and ask for insane amounts of money.
Nussle was hands down one of the best candidates I have had the pleasure to work with. While it’s now in vogue for some to trash his gubernatorial campaign, I, for one, would feel a lot better if Nussle was our governor instead of Chet Culver. During the 2006 campaign, Chet Culver effectively made the argument that Jim Nussle had “gone Washington.” At the time, I thought that was ridiculous, and now, it seems even more so. If Nussle had “gone Washington,” where has Chet gone with his budget mess in his time as our Governor?
The purpose of my interview was to cover Jim’s new business venture, The Nussle Group. The Nussle Group’s practice areas will focus on government regulations, fiscal and economic analysis, management and business development, and strategic planning and politics. Joining Nussle are two of his former aides, Barbra Snitker and Christopher Bliley. Both have served as Chief of Staff for Nussle and bring considerable knowledge of the ins and outs of the government process to the firm.
Nussle sees his new venture as a way to continue his work advocating for Iowans. “Over the past 20 years or so, myself as well as Barbra and Chris, have gathered and gained experience in helping the people of Iowa be effective in Washington. I see this new venture as a way to continue that work, but through the private sector,” Nussle said.
In addition to Nussle’s new business venture, we also discussed politics.
As we discussed the Obama administration’s massive budget and increased spending, Nussle reminded me that, “Through our representatives and our newly elected President, we have signaled that we want government more involved in our daily lives. We want government more involved in our businesses. We want government more involved in health care. We want government more involved in the economy, and that’s the signal that so many in the majority party took away from the election.”
Nussle said the President and Democrats in the majority see more government as the answer to the problems that face our country, not the private sector. Nussle said, “Many people have lost faith in the market place and the economy over the last year. But over the course of our history in the United States, while there have been ups and downs in our markets, which is natural, the free market is a much better way to solve problems, create opportunities, and to build and grow our country.”
Closer to home, Nussle told me that he had make a personal decision not spend his time knifing at Governor Culver since Culver has a tough enough job in front of him. But, when asked if he was surprised at the mess Culver has made of the state budget Nussle said, “The people of Iowa will have to decide whether or not this is what they were voting for when they elected him. I’m not surprised that Governor Culver has turned to bigger government, more spending and higher taxes.” Nussle said. “That’s not knifing, those are just the facts.”
When asked if he would seek elected office again, Nussle said, “My wife and I agree to never say never.” He went on to say that he has no plans to run, but that it was a great honor to serve the people of Iowa. He also added that there are other excellent people out there who need the opportunity to serve.
While Nussle seems content being in the private sector, he did indicate that some potential gubernatorial candidates have sought his advice about running for governor. Nussle hopes that a standard bearer will emerge who will offer Iowans a better vision for our state than what we are currently experiencing.
Nussle did offer some advice for any potential gubernatorial candidates. Nussle said, “Our candidates have a specific vision for what direction they want the state to go. They need a plan on how they intend to accomplish it, be able to articulate it, and most importantly, be able to garner support from the base of the Republican Party base, independent voters, and gather back Republican voters who have been frustrated with our party in the past”
When asked what type of impact the issue of gay marriage will have on the gubernatorial campaign, Nussle said he believes that gay marriage will be more of an issue in the general election than the primary. Nussle indicated that everyone he has spoken with supports traditional marriage. Nussle said that Republicans should not just advocate for traditional marriage, but to also help those married couples be successful and stay in Iowa.
In regards to how Governor Culver handled the Court’s decision, Nussle was “amazed” at how long it took Governor Culver to issue a statement. Nussle said, “Having worked for the President ,and knowing a little about the inside handling of the news events of the day, whether it’s a court decision or natural disaster, to watch a chief executive wait five days to issue a statement on an issue of this magnitude was amazing.” Nussle also said that Culver’s statement lacked the clarity one would expect from a governor.
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