Yesterday, Chris Rants ended his gubernatorial campaign. An inability to raise the necessary funds and gain traction in the polls forced Rants out of the race. Rants’ departure from the GOP primary field will obviously have an impact on the race. Since last summer, the Republican gubernatorial field has shrunken considerably. Difficulty raising the necessary funds to run a competitive campaign has been the main reason why Sen. Paul McKinley, Sen. Jerry Behn, Christian Fong, and now Chris Rants have had to drop out of the race.
While Rants’ departure from the race isn’t going to cause a seismic shift in the GOP gubernatorial primary, it does help some candidates more than others. With one less option on primary ballot, there is now group voters who were warm to Rants who now have to look for a new political home in the gubernatorial primary.
How it affects the race:
Branstad’s chief critic is now no longer running against him. In the primary Rants wanted to play the role of the policy wonk, but instead ended up being the resident Branstad historian. Whenever Branstad would say something that wasn’t quite right or contradicted his 16 years in office, Chris Rants was there to set the record straight.
With Rants out of the race, who will hold Branstad accountable? Roberts has remained positive in his campaign, and Vander Plaats has yet to seriously take issue with Branstad’s record. Vander Plaats has left that to Rants and some of his opinionated supporters thus far. Rants’ departure helps Branstad the most.
Early on, Roberts was an afterthought in the crowded primary field. Now he finds himself as the lone alternative candidate to Branstad and Vander Plaats. Out of all the candidates, Roberts has done himself the most good in running for governor. He has increased his name ID and proved to a lot of people that he is capable of being the governor of the state.
Unfortunately, being capable and getting elected are two different things. While there are people who would prefer not to vote for Branstad or Vander Plaats, there are not enough of them to win you the primary in June. Roberts also must make a decision on whether or not he will run for re-election in the Iowa House. He can’t run for both, so if the filing deadline comes and goes and Roberts is still on the gubernatorial ballot there is no turning back.
Bob Vander Plaats:
One could make the argument that a person who was willing to vote against Branstad will not automatically support the former governor. Yet, at least some Rants’ supporters would seem more likely to embrace Branstad than Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats might be helped if the GOP gubernatorial contest becomes a two man race. In a head-to-head primary campaign against Branstad, Republicans would then be forced to pick one or the other. I’m not sure that is a winning scenario for Vander Plaats, but it might actually give him his best chance of winning. Either way, Rants’ departure puts more pressure on Vander Plaats to be a more aggressive candidate. While he has been aggressive when it comes to social issues, Vander Plaats has not been aggressive in other areas. He will have to change that if he wants to compete.
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