Terry Branstad Yes, everyone under the sun expected Branstad to win on Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook what he was able to accomplish. After a ten-year absence, the mere mention of a Branstad comeback essentially froze a crowded primary field. His political clout did more than dry up his opponents’ fundraising, it also insulated him from numerous attacks by his Republican and Democrat opponents.
Branstad did something that no other political candidate has done in 48 years – unseat an incumbent governor. Not only was he successful, he won 90 of the state’s 99 counties in doing it. That’s impressive anyway you want to look at it.
Matt Schultz: In early August, TheIowaRepublican.com released polling results that showed Schultz leading Secretary of State Mauro 33 percent to 30 percent. Schultz won the race by three points on Tuesday night.
At that time I wrote, “For all intents and purposes, Republicans should look at this race as an open seat instead of a challenger race.” The polling numbers showed that Mauro lacked the benefits that typically come with incumbency. For that reason, the Secretary of State race was always the best opportunity for Republicans to pick up a statewide seat. Nobody should be surprised at Schultz’s win.
Schultz wasn’t a prolific fundraiser, but he made up for it by constantly talking about the issues that the electorate cared about. He gives Iowa Republicans a dynamic, young leader who could be a fixture in Iowa politics for years to come.
Kraig Paulsen: One word, WOW. I bumped into Paulsen a couple of times as the election drew near. While he never wanted to go on the record with a prediction, he always seemed confident in winning the majority, and even told me that he thought there was a chance that the House could win 60 seats. Paulsen, who we will soon be calling, Speaker Paulsen, got those 60 seats.
The makings of the Republican Majority in the House began with 26 incumbents who were not being challenged by Democrats. The 13 House Republicans with challengers all easily won re-election. Paulsen’s team then went out and won eight open seats and knocked off 13 incumbent Democrats. 26+13+8+13=60. What an incredible night for House Republicans.
Kent Sorenson: Perhaps no political candidate running for office in Iowa was attacked like Sorenson was. The attacks by his opponent, State Senator Staci Appel, along with those from Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s 527 group, were so negative and personal that they turned voters against the people who the ads were intended to help. Not only did Sorenson beat Staci Appel by 18 points, but he helped carry two new State House candidates to victory as well. It looks like Mike Gronstal has met his match.
Iowa for Freedom: Following another failed gubernatorial attempt in the June Republican primary, Bob Vander Plaats seemed determined to punish his Republican opponent. Not only did he refuse to endorse Terry Branstad, but he also tried to force his way on to the Republican ticket by challenging Kim Reynolds, Branstad’s Lieutenant Governor pick, at the Republican state convention. Vander Plaats lost the floor fight and seemed destined to run as an independent candidate.
Cooler heads prevailed, and Vander Plaats became the figurehead of the group that would ask voters to oust three Iowa Supreme Court Justices in November. Vander Plaats served as a lightning rod for the pro-retention crowd. Iowa for Freedom also added Chuck Laudner, one of state’s most experienced conservative grassroots organizers to its team. The combination of the two served the cause well.
This effort was successful for a couple of reasons. First, Vander Plaats infuriated his opposition to such a level that the retention proponents couldn’t stop drawing attention to his effort. The campaign benefitted greatly from the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races being decided early. Had the gubernatorial race been close, the media would not have been able to devote as much time to the retention efforts. Finally, the group was able to mount a well-financed advertising campaign to compliment the earned media it received.
Iowa for Freedom would have been successful had it ousted just one judge. By ousting all three Supreme Court Justices, it not only achieved its goal in sending a message about traditional marriage in Iowa, it made sure that the entire nation heard its message.
Jeff Boeyink: After Matt Strawn was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa in January of 2006, he selected Boeyink to be his executive director. The choice was unanimously praised. Boeyink brought a vast amount of political knowledge and experience with him. He and Strawn also brought a lot of professionalism to the Party, which was badly needed.
Boeyink’s time at the Party was cut short when Branstad selected him to head up his gubernatorial campaign. Once again, Boeyink provided the necessary experience and professionalism that large campaigns need to be successful. Yesterday, Branstad announced that Boeyink will serve as his Chief of Staff. Not only is this a position that Boeyink has earned, but he will serve Iowans well in his new capacity.
Tim Albrecht: Another one of Branstad’s early hires was Albrecht, who served as the campaign’s communications director. While he’s only in his early thirties, Albrecht is a veteran of numerous campaigns. He is also a State House veteran who understands how the capitol operates. Albrecht will now serve as the communications director for the Branstad administration. It’s good to see someone who has worked hard in Iowa politics succeed.
Steve King: Once again King won his re-election campaign with ease. The only difference between this year’s campaign and his other re-election campaigns was that his mind was on something else – the retention vote. King spent numerous days traveling with the Judge Bus, encouraging people to vote no on the retention of three Iowa Supreme Court Justices. He also was willing to put his money where his mouth was. In the final days before the election, heplaced an $80,000 radio buy that aired across the state. King put a lot of his political capital on the line, when few other office holders would.
Rick Santorum: Santorum was the only potential 2012 presidential candidate to publically back the anti-retention effort. His presence at one of the Judge Bus stops was noted in political circles around the country. Santorum also deserves credit for making an impact for Matt Schultz’s campaign. Santorum’s Iowa Keystone PAC gave Schultz’s campaign $10,000 in the final weeks of the campaign. While Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty gave out checks to a greater number of candidates, Santorum’s contributions to Schultz made an impact.
American Future Fund: The Iowa based American Future Fund received plenty of attention in both the national and local media this election cycle. The group spent heavily in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, and also spent a considerable amount of money in the 2nd District race. While AFF didn’t get into the win column in its Iowa races, it was successful in 20 of the 25 races in which it played nationally. Not a bad winning percentage.
Iowa Victory Program: For the first time in years, Iowa Republicans were able to implement a fantastic voter ID program that was designed to aide campaigns of all sizes. Another noticeable change was they type of person who was put in charge of the program. Chad Olsen, a long-time Republican operative oversaw the Victory program.
In my opinion Olsen is the best mentor and talent evaluator Iowa Republicans have in the state. I’m biased since he showed me the ropes back in 1999 on Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign. RPI Chairman Matt Strawn, Executive Director Jim Anderson, and the RNC also deserve credit for Iowa’s impressive victory program.
With so many Republican victories last night, the amount of “winners” could go on and on. Please feel free to fill in the gaps in the comment section.
The List of Losers will be published this afternoon.
Photos of Schultz, Sorenson, King, and Vote No by Dave Davidson
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