Despite the reality of the world around him, Governor Chet Culver always seems to find a way to be optimistic when talking about the condition of the state or his campaign. When the state ended the FY 2009 budget year with a $161 million deficit, Culver remained calm and refused to call a special session to deal with the unbalanced budget. Instead, Culver opted to transfer $45.3 million from the state’s economic emergency fund and withheld paying $30 million in corporate tax refunds until the next fiscal year to balance last year’s budget.
When the Revenue Estimating Conference met at the end of the fiscal year in July, Governor Culver ignored the warning signs in hopes that revenues would rebound in the second half of the year. They didn’t, and since Governor Culver once again failed to call back the legislature to deal with the state’s overspending, he was forced to implement a reckless ten-percent across-the-board budget cut.
The same pattern existed with the film tax credit scandal at the Iowa Department of Economic Development. It seems that Governor Culver fails to act until his back is against the wall. While this has certainly been the case with how he has handled the state government, it’s also true about his re-election campaign and team of advisors.
Governor Culver has stated publically that he looks forward to campaigning on his record as governor. Various media outlets have indicated that Culver is on a record breaking fundraising pace. Yet, if everything is so hunky-dory, then why has Culver needed to replace his chief-of-staff, communications director, and campaign manager?
Yesterday, the Des Moines Register reported that Culver’s campaign manager, Andrew Roos, quit. Apparently, Roos didn’t mesh well with Culver and the rest of the campaign team. Roos didn’t even make it past three months as Culver’s campaign manager. It’s hard to imagine that things could have gone so poorly so quickly, but apparently they did.
Since Roos joined the campaign on September 8th, former Governor Terry Branstad entered the gubernatorial race, Culver was forced to make massive cuts to all levels of state government, the Culver campaign spent $250,000 on two different TV ads in an effort to reassure Iowans that he is up to the task, and the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll came out showing Culver is in serious trouble. Making matters worse, last weekend, the Iowa Progress Project ran a scathing ad that blames Culver’s mismanagement for cuts made in education.
It’s impossible to lay the blame for this predicament at the feet of Roos since he has not been on the job long, but when things get bad in politics, heads begin to roll. The bad news for Culver is that things are unlikely to get better soon enough to help him with his re-election effort.
This is why Democrats have gone out of their way to take the focus off of Culver. The most significant example of this is the recruitment of Roxanne Conlin to run for the United States Senate against Chuck Grassley. Before Conlin entered the race, Culver was all alone at the top of the ticket for Iowa Democrats. While Conlin has a long way to go before being a serious threat to Grassley, she is the only candidate that the liberal news media would take seriously. We all know that the Des Moines Register will go through barrels of ink covering her attempt to be the first woman from Iowa to be elected to a federal office, and she is also a credible candidate because of her immense personal wealth.
There is no doubt that Iowa Democrats obviously wouldn’t mind knocking off Grassley, but their recruitment of Conlin was important because it will help take the focus off of Governor Culver and the condition that the state is in. If Culver is to be successful in 2010, Democrats must control the debate. So instead of talking about Culver’s mismanagement, they want to talk about how long Senator Grassley has been in office. Instead of talking about the state’s unemployment levels, they will want to talk about all the special interest money Grassley has accepted from PACs.
It’s a clever strategy and possibly the only way Democrats can be successful next year. Republicans, however, can circumvent that strategy if they are disciplined. Our Republican candidates must not forget that the real opponent is Chet Culver, not Speaker Murphy, Majority Leader Gronstal, President Obama, or worse yet, another Republican.
Iowa Republicans must also avoid the traps that create warring factions within the party. Up and down the ballot, Republicans will have spirited primaries. That’s a healthy exercise, but we must accept that the best candidate will emerge victorious after the primary. If your candidate doesn’t win, it’s not because they were robbed of their victory, it’s because their campaign and supporters didn’t do enough to win. Governor Culver is on the ropes, but it is up to Iowa Republicans to knock him out. To do that, we need a united party with a common purpose – to defeat Governor Culver.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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