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May 13th, 2010

As Republicans Fight, Culver Rises in Polls

By James Johnson

The worst kept secret in Iowa today is that the Republican Party is having a knock-down, drag-out, bar room brawl for the gubernatorial nomination. And as the June 8th primary date approaches, it is getting nastier.

It is like the lyrics of the old Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”…

“Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes. And he went down, but to my surprise, he come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair right across his teeth, and we crashed through the wall and into the street, kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.”

And Democrats are loving it. Why? Because in the midst of the Republican Battle Royal, Democrat Governor Chet Culver — who, as recently as two months ago, was considered by Democratic strategists to be a political dead duck — is suddenly quacking again.

The latest Mason-Dixon Research poll shows Gov. Culver shrinking the gap between himself and a generic Republican nominee for governor not by one point, not by two points, but by nine points… in just six weeks. All this despite his being in the greatest political crisis that an Iowa governor has seen in 50 years.

Democrats are now crafting a gubernatorial campaign on the belief that many Republicans will be so bitter over the war for the GOP gubernatorial nomination that they will not support the party’s eventual nominee. Thus making the impossible possible: a second term for Chet Culver.

Think about it. When Democrats start banking on Republicans to commit political suicide in the general election, and the polls are showing significant movement in their candidates direction, then it is time for Republicans to wake up.

The Governor is on the ropes. He has been abandoned by everyone in his corner. Even the Attorney General (a Democrat) has called for an independent investigation of his office. This man should not be standing by Labor Day, much less Election Day. Yet he is showing no signs of quitting, merely wobbling. For now that is, because the Republican Party is giving him a reason to fight on. So he is.

Despite all the scandals surrounding his office, despite all the anxiety over the economy, and despite all the disgust over the national Democratic party’s unconstitutional behavior since Barack Obama became President, Chet Culver is getting his second wind and is determined to fight to the last bell. Granted, he may not have the punching power to win by a knock-out, but he may be able to wear the GOP opponent down and outlast him through the 15th Round.

The average Iowa voter — not the political geeks like us — is growing apprehensive about the news coming out of the Republican ranks. They hear sniping, mudslinging, threats, ultimatums. Altogether, not a very “grand” sound coming from the Grand Old Party. Perhaps Republicans should be reminded of a little Midwestern marketing lesson: Nasty does not sell. Or to put it another way, “When in Rome, be Roman. When in Iowa, be nice.”

Other than the Fight on the Right, what other explanation can explain Governor Culver’s sudden surge in the polls over the last month? The state’s major media outlets, most internet news sites, and the political blogosphere, have talked about little else other than the feud going on in the House that Lincoln Built. And as a result, ordinary Iowans are beginning to get nervous about the Republican Party’s ability to bring peace to a chaotic Statehouse in Des Moines.

If Republicans cannot unite behind the party’s gubernatorial nominee (whomever that is), then Chet Culver may do what nobody thought was possible: win re-election. Worse yet, in what was supposed to be a Republican year.

The Republican Party has three strong gubernatorial candidates. All fine men. All well qualified. One is a former governor. One is a five-term state representative. And one is a successful businessman and educator. Any one of these men would make a better chief executive than Chet Culver.

It is time for Republican politicos to tone down the rhetoric. It is time to replace heat with light, and passion with reason. The Big Democrat is on the ropes. And we must knock him out. We cannot let him go the distance.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

James M. Johnson

James M. Johnson is the president of the Iowa Republican Assembly, which works to get constitutionally minded conservatives elected to leadership positions in the Republican Party, and to elective office on the local, state, and federal level. He has worked on over 50 political campaigns and holds an M.A. in public policy with a concentration in political communication.

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