August 21st, 2009

Viewing a Branstad Candidacy From a Different Perspective

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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teb3When I graduated from Northeast High School in Goose Lake, I made my way down Highway 61 to attend St. Ambrose University in Davenport in 1995. My goal wasn’t to become involved in politics; my goal was to become a high school history and government teacher. My early years in college were full of history and education courses, but unfortunately, or fortunately for the youth of our state, the classroom wasn’t for me.

Today my love of history continues to grow. No matter how hard my wife tries to get me to read a Harry Potter book, I would rather sit down and read a political autobiography. In fact, I would rather page through my book on the debates of the 1857 Iowa Constitutional Convention than crack open that Harry Potter book. Maybe that’s because I can watch Harry Potter in the movie theater, but I doubt Steven Spielberg will be directing a movie about the last Constitutional Convention in Iowa.

History has always been my fiction, i.e., my fun reading. I never was one who tried to memorize every date, location, or person involved. Instead, I have always been fascinated by why events occurred rather than how events transpired. To be able to understand why things happened the way they did, it’s imperative to be able to look at things objectively, which is why I want to look at the potential Branstad candidacy from a different perspective than other political writers and commentators.

It seems as if people can be put into two different categories in terms of how they feel about a Branstad comeback. First, there are those Republicans who see his high poll numbers, remember the type of governor he was, and want him to run. Then there are those who, despite his long service to the state and high poll numbers, want to immediately start to attack his record. In my opinion, both groups are a little quick to either embrace or disregard Branstad.

To add a different perspective on the debate surrounding Branstad, let’s compare all of the candidates based on what they have done in the last 10 years, meaning, we are going to ignore Branstad’s years as governor for argument’s sake. To prevent this article from getting too long, let’s compare the resumes of Vander Plaats, Rants, Fong, and Branstad.

Bob Vander Plaats
Three Time Candidate for Governor (2002, 2006, 2010)
Owner/Operator of MVP Leadership, Vander Plaats mentors business executives.
Political Involvement: Candidate, Caucus Chairman for Mike Huckabee

Chris Rants
State Legislator, Majority Leader, Speaker, Minority Leader
Political Involvement: Chief fundraiser for House Republicans, Caucus Advisor for Mitt Romney

Christian Fong
Out-of-State Student, employee at AEGON Insurance, flood recovery coordinator
Political Involvement: Made small contributions to a number of Republican house candidates and a few Democrat legislators.

Terry Branstad
Attorney, financial advisor, President of Des Moines University
Political Involvement: Presidential Commission for Excellence in Special Education, Partnership to fight Chronic Disease, Supported numerous Republican candidates and causes.

Even when you take out Branstad’s 12 years as Governor, his resume still shines brighter than his opponents. If fact, I don’t think it would be a stretch to think that, had he not served as Governor, Branstad might be a highly recruited candidate to run against Culver anyway. Well connected, articulate college presidents are often times considered as perspective political candidates.

Another one of Branstad’s strengths is that he has been politically consistent. People can trust that the Terry Branstad they talk to today is the same as the Terry Branstad they knew 10 years ago, and he will be consistent with the Branstad they will run into ten years from now. That can’t be said about all of his opponents.

Christian Fong is a newcomer to Republican politics in Iowa. Fong’s main obstacle is getting known. Convincing people he is sincere and authentic is a secondary concern for his campaign. However, for Fong to be successful, he will have to create a level of trust with the voters.

While Fong is busy inventing himself, Branstad’s other potential opponents have both reinvented themselves for their 2010 gubernatorial campaigns.

Christopher Rants was known as an aggressive, no-holds barred legislator for the better part of a decade. After losing his leadership position in the Iowa House, a kinder, gentler Chris Rants has emerged. While Rants’ persona has evolved, he has been consistent on the issues and principles for which he has advocated.

The 2010 campaign marks the third time Bob Vander Plaats has run for governor. Vander Plaats has always been a social conservative, but each of his three campaigns has taken on a new flavor. Vander Plaats’ third campaign is a lot different than his previous ones. In 2002, Vander Plaats was a lot like Christian Fong. He was basically unknown, but brought a compelling personal story to his campaign.

In 2006, Vander Plaats seemed to struggle to find a theme or purpose for his campaign. One of his main proposals last cycle was a massive tax increase on the porn industry. There are good reasons for limiting the porn industry, but making it a central issue in an Iowa gubernatorial campaign was a bit odd.

This year, Vander Plaats is a constitutionalist. He has promised to sign an executive order that would temporarily overturn the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. Vander Plaats has also used the constitutional approach in dealing with the debate on health care. Vander Plaats’ constitutional approach in 2010 isn’t unnatural; it’s just a lot different than the candidate we saw in 2002 and 2006.

Given the current direction in which our country and state seem to be heading, one shouldn’t be surprised to see that the voters prefer candidates who they can trust. While recent poll numbers have a lot of people excited about the prospect of a Branstad comeback, he has many qualities that make him a good candidate other than the fact that it looks like he would bury Governor Culver in a head-to-head matchup. Unlike most of his potential opponents, Branstad is a well known commodity who has been very consistent over the years. It should come as no surprise that if Branstad runs he will instantly become the Republican frontrunner.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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