When I left college in 1999, I was armed with degrees in history and political science. My college education has prepared me well, but I still shake my head at my political science degree. I’ve read and studied some of the great thinkers throughout history. I learned a lot about polling and statistic. Still, the greatest lesson that I learned is that the science in politics sometimes doesn’t make any sense at all.
Confused? Join the club. Only in politics can the person who wins the election lose out in the long run, and the guy who finished way back in the pack come out smelling like a rose. For example, if Terry Branstad wins in November many Iowa Republicans will celebrate his victory. Yet, the pomp and circumstance of his inauguration will quickly fade once he has to start cleaning up the mess left by Governor Culver and the Democrats.
Then there are candidates like Rod Roberts, who only garnered nine percent of the vote in the June 8th primary. Roberts leaves the campaign trail with increased name ID, a ton of good will because of the style of campaign he ran, and a bright political future ahead of him. He also will not have to cast any difficult votes that may be necessary to turn the state around. Not a bad conciliation prize, especially if you have an eye on a future race.
While everyone was focused on Bob Vander Plaats at Saturday’s Republican convention, it was Robert’s who gained the most politically of any Republican politician. The funny thing is that it would not have been possible without Bob Vander Plaats trying to force his way on the Republican ticket.
Before the nominations for lieutenant governor took place, I saw Roberts chatting with another former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong. I interrupted them for a brief second, shook both of their hands and continued on my way. I remember thinking to myself that Roberts looked exhausted. Looking back, it never crossed my mind that Roberts would be the one to steal the show later that day.
After Kim Reynolds, Vander Plaats, and Roberts were all nominated to be Terry Branstad’s running mate, all three of them where asked to meet behind the stage to communicate whether or not they would accept the nomination. It was then announced that each would be allowed to speak for three minutes, with Roberts going first, followed by Reynolds, then Vander Plaats.
I had assumed that since all three were speaking that each had agreed to accept the nomination. Roberts took to the stage, and once again, he looked as good as he did on the campaign trail. He then said (and I paraphrase), “On June 8th, the voters made their decision. The voters chose Branstad for governor. I respect that decision. Branstad has the right to choose his own lieutenant governor. I endorse both Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds. I respectfully decline the nomination.”
The convention hall erupted before Roberts could even finish his simple statement. It wasn’t Roberts’ choice of words that moved many of the delegates; it was the honesty and sincerity of the man who delivered the words that made the impact.
In what has been a negative gubernatorial primary that refuses to end, Roberts has provided some much needed grace and class to the process. While he wasn’t rewarded in his gubernatorial campaign, Roberts has elevated himself to a place where his name will be linked to any major race that he is eligible to run for in the future.
For that reason alone, Roberts may likely emerge as the biggest winner from the 2010 elections. At the age of 53, Roberts’ political future didn’t come to an abrupt end when he lost to Branstad in the primary and wasn’t selected to be his running mate. Roberts has successfully introduced himself to Iowans all across the state. The next time he throws his hat in the ring, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a contender.
The goodwill that Roberts was able to generate at Saturday’s convention by simply doing the right thing is priceless. While Bob Vander Plaats has burned through all of his political capital in his 2010 campaign, Roberts has stockpiled it and can use it down the road – a wise move by a savvy politician.
Some have questioned why Roberts stayed in the race when he was only able to garner nine percent of the vote. By seeing the race through to the end, Roberts now helps Iowa Republicans replenish the bench of potential candidates that has been non-existent in recent years. Robert’s might not have won the nomination, but there is no doubt that he still found a way to emerge with his head held high and a bright future ahead of him.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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