The New Year always brings two things, predictions and resolutions. The focus of this article is predictions of a political nature. While I have enjoyed reading other predictions on blogs and news sites, many times they lack any sort of supporting analysis, making them more of a guess than a prediction. It is likely that none of my predictions will surprise you given that I’ve been sharing my personal thoughts and analysis with you since March of last year. That’s why this article will discuss the reasons why I believe certain things will happen, not simply list things that might occur.
Republican Gubernatorial Primary
Prediction: Vander Plaats needs help from Rants and/or Roberts to secure Republican nomination.
A lot of people have speculated that the Republican primary for governor might end up being settled at a state-wide nominating convention. That would happen if the winner of the GOP primary fails to break the 35% threshold. With the field of candidates now down to four candidates, it’s now very unlikely that the winner of the Republican primary will not surpass that 35% mark. In fact, I believe that the top two finishers will surpass the 35% threshold.
For Vander Plaats to win, he will need Chris Rants and/or Rod Roberts to garner a significant percentage of the vote. There is no doubt in my mind that Vander Plaats can easily pull 30 to 35% of the vote in the primary, but that’s not going to be enough if Rants and Roberts only combine to garner 25 to 30% of the vote. Under a scenario where Vander Plaats receives 35%, and Rants and Roberts split another 25%, Branstad wins with 40% of the vote. While Vander Plaats might not have any problem getting to 35% finding another five to ten percent might be very difficult, especially given the perception that he is a one issue candidate.
If the Republican primary for governor was a caucus, I believe that Governor Branstad would be in serious trouble. The good news for him is that it’s a primary. Voter turnout will be a lot higher in a primary than in a caucus. That means a well-funded candidate like Branstad can get his message across via radio and television ads. One good ad might be all it takes to motivate a couch potato to get off the couch and into the election booth on Election Day.
Second District Congressional Primary
Prediction: Miller-Meeks gets second chance at taking on Congressman Loebsack.
The 2010 Republican primary in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District will be a competitive contest. All three candidates in the race, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Christopher Reed, and Steve Rathje, were candidates in 2008. Miller-Meeks won a contested primary against Peter Teahen and Lee Harder to win the nomination in 2008. Reed and Rathje both ran for the United States Senate in 2008. Reed won the state-wide primary, but Rathje did better in the 2nd Congressional District.
Miller-Meeks brings a number of advantages to her second attempt at political office. Unlike in her 2008 primary campaign, Miller-Meeks is now better known after being the party’s nominee. She also developed a strong following of GOP activists in the district. As long as she maintains the enthusiastic support she had in the southern part of the district, she will be difficult to beat. Miller-Meeks is also poised to do better in Linn County this time around since none of the candidates from Cedar Rapids have strong connections to the Cedar Rapids business community.
Despite all the advantages that Miller-Meeks has in this primary, she would be foolish to discount either Reed or Rathje. All three candidates learned a lot in their first campaigns in 2008. Reed has already shown the ability to bring in well known conservatives like Duncan Hunter and was also recently endorsed by Tom Tancredo. Reed will likely come at Miller-Meeks from the right, and, unlike in the 2008 primary, Miller-Meeks will have to reassure voters that she is a conservative candidate.
Third District Congressional Primary
Prediction: Gibbons Pins Primary Opposition, knocks off Congressman Boswell.
If this was 2004 or 2006, Brad Zaun would be a lock to win the Republican primary in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. Zaun is well known in Republican circles in Polk County, and his name has appeared on ballots for more than a decade. All of those things used to make you an outstanding candidate, but in the current political environment, having a record of strong party affiliation is seen as an obstacle. Zaun’s populist persona might allow him the ability to cut through that label, but being trapped in the legislature in the months leading up to the primary isn’t going to help.
This political environment lends itself to newcomers to the political scene, and the four other candidates vying for the chance to take on Congressman Boswell this fall all fit that distinction. Being new on the scene isn’t the only trait a candidate must have. Candidates still need to be well known and have the ability to motivate people to support their campaigns by writing checks to the campaign or volunteering.
The one candidate who is most likely to break out from the pack is Jim Gibbons. Gibbons has already displayed his ability to raise money by having a big fundraiser which was attended by some of the state’s biggest donors last month. He has also hired a campaign manager who is up to date on current Congressional legislation and issues. Gibbons, with his athletic background and accompanying fan base, also has the ability to bring new people into the political process.
Having worked with a number of candidates over the past decade, I’ve been able to talk to a lot of candidates at the onset of their campaigns. When I interviewed Gibbons, I was impressed with how prepared he was as a candidate. To be honest, I had never been around a more confident candidate. I think Gibbons not only has what it takes to win the Republican primary, but he also has what it takes to defeat Leonard Boswell.
If Gibbons is going to be successful, he will have to focus on defeating his primary opponents. Brad Zaun is an outstanding campaigner, and Dave Funk is a legitimate candidate.
Prediction: Republicans gain seats in both chambers, but not majorities.
For the first time in years, Iowa Republicans will gain seats in both chambers of the legislature. While most of the focus has been on picking up seats in the Iowa House in recent elections, it’s the State Senate where 19 Democratic seats are up for grabs in 2010 providing an opportunity for Republicans to make huge strides.
The current political environment has been great for candidate recruitment and should help Republicans win districts they have lost control of in recent years. Both the House and the Senate have new leaders doing the necessary work to recruit candidates and raise the necessary funds to be competitive.
The real question is whether or not Republicans can pick up the seven seats in the House and the eight seats in the Senate necessary to gain control. Doing so would be a remarkable feat, especially in the house where Republican retirements will force leadership to spend money on seats that were held by Jodi Tymeson, Chris Rants, and Rod Roberts. Some of those seats will be difficult to hold on to.
Snap Shot Predictions
US Senate: Republican
1st CD: Democrat
2nd CD: Democrat
3rd CD: Republican
4th CD: Republican
5th CD: Republican
Attorney General: Democrat
Secretary of State: Republican
Secretary of Ag: Republican
State Auditor: Republican
State Treasurer: Democrat
State House: 48 Republicans, 52 Democrats
State Senate: 23 Republicans, 27 Democrats
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