If you are wondering if this debate is going to have any impact on the race, just look at what all of the mainstream political reporters are focusing on – Branstad’s refusal to weigh in on two down ballot issues. One being Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Trust Fund, which is a proposed constitutional amendment, and the other was the judicial retention elections.
If that is all political reporters have to write about after this debate, then Governor Culver didn’t accomplish his goal in using the debate to save his campaign. How Branstad plans to vote on these issues is inconsequential. Branstad did point out that the current make-up of the state’s judicial nominating commission needs to be politically balanced. The current commission has 12 Democrats and just two Republicans.
Throughout the debate, Governor Culver seemed like a man who was desperately trying to salvage a failed relationship. He kept reminding the audience of all the good times they shared together and how great various magazines and publications think things are going. Despite his attempts to rekindle the relationship, his significant other, in this case, the voters, just don’t see the point in investing more time into a relationship that’s turned sour.
In most personal relationships, a man in Culver’s position would have probably gotten the point by now, but there is no giving up in politics. While many Iowans believe that Culver has failed the state, his performance in each of the three debates and his messaging throughout the campaign show that his handlers have failed him badly.
Imagine if you were an undecided voter who is just tuning into this race for the first time. If you watched the debate, and remember not many do, you saw Governor Culver say a number of things that, while true, don’t matter or relate to Iowans in these difficult times.
Culver has constantly reminded Iowans that Forbes magazine named Des Moines the best city in America for business. He often cites a Pew study that Iowa’s fiscal situation is the second strongest in the country. More recently, Culver has bragged about Iowa being called one of the top three best run states in the nation according to 24/7 Wall Street, a Delaware based financial news and opinion website. In yesterday’s debate, Culver proudly proclaimed that he wouldn’t trade jobs with any other Governor in the country.
Most people could care less about where the state ranks in these publications. What matters to them is whether they have a good job. If they are employed, they care about things like job security and benefits. If you’re a small business owner, you worry about making payroll and finding enough work or customers to maintain your workforce. The last thing they care about is where Iowa ranks on some website nobody has ever heard of.
After listening to Culver, one might be led to believe that unemployment is low, state spending is under control, and the state hasn’t experienced a government scandal in decades. Most Iowans know that’s not true. Culver is underestimating Iowans’ knowledge of state government. People understand that these are tough times, but Culver has yet to accept that fact himself.
How can someone lead the state through these turbulent times if he is either unaware or ignorant of what Iowans are going through?
Culver has also grown accustomed to bragging about what a great place Iowa is to do business. He crows about companies like Microsoft, Google, and IBM choosing to locate here. He also never fails to utter terms like “green collar jobs” or “Silicon Prairie” when talking about renewable energy.
Again, its hard to believe that the Iowa Culver describes is dealing with the largest number of unemployed Iowans in almost 25 years. With all of these huge corporations flocking to Iowa, it is hard to believe that Iowa home sales have dropped 27 percent since last year.
The problem that Governor Culver has is that the Iowa he brags about looks nothing like the Iowa that people are currently experiencing. As such, Culver has lost any credibility he might have had with the electorate. Democrat leaders like former President Bill Clinton were masterful at connecting with the electorate. The former president was always saying things like, “I feel your pain.” Culver and his staff have proven themselves to be unable to sympathize with Iowans.
Culver’s lack of credibility has also rendered his attacks on Branstad useless. He continues to lose credibility with the voters when he cherry-picks Branstad’s record on issues like taxes or unemployment. Just like in yesterday’s debate, Branstad continues talk about the totality of his record in Iowa. He’s provided more tax relief than any other governor in the state’s history. When he took office in the midst of the farm crisis, unemployment was at 8.6 percent. When he left office it was 2.7 percent.
Those are the facts, and they are well known. Still, Governor Culver tries to paint Branstad as a big tax raiser and someone who saw the state’s unemployment rate hit 8.6 percent. Iowans, and even the people in the mainstream media, simply are not gullible enough to believe Culver.
Breaking up is always hard to do and even more difficult to watch. The fatal error that the Culver and his campaign made was that they didn’t trust Iowans enough to have an honest conversation about the issues facing the state. We probably shouldn’t be surprised since his campaign is run by a state employee, who took a leave of absence. While main street struggles, state government continues to provide some of the best paying jobs and benefits around.
Instead of talking about Microsoft, Google, and IBM all of the time, Culver should have been listening to small business owners over the last four years. Maybe then he could have gotten to know the Iowa that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis. Maybe then he would have had a shot at a second term. Instead, Culver will be forced to experience a very painful and public break up on November 2nd.
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