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June 17th, 2010

Vander Plaats Mulls Independent Bid After Being Rejected for Lt. Governor

After coming up 21,531 votes short of Terry Branstad on primary night, Bob Vander Plaats announced that he and Branstad had agreed to meet and talk about ways to unite Republicans after the primary.  Sources close to Vander Plaats tell the meeting with Branstad occurred on Monday in Sioux City, and it did not go well.

Apparently, Vander Plaats’ plan to unite the party wasn’t based upon his executive order proposal, his stance on illegal immigration, or even his position on other social issues.  Instead, sources close to Vander Plaats say it was based almost entirely on Branstad naming him as his running mate for the general election.

Throughout the primary and even following the outcome of Tuesday’s election results, the Iowa Family Policy Center and WHO Radio personality, Steve Deace, have made repeated claims that those who want the party to unite around its nominee do so because they merely want the proverbial seat at the table.  It’s ironic that, after all of this time and all of the lectures we have heard on WHO Radio and from IFPC, it’s Vander Plaats who is angling to get something, not anybody else.

Those same sources also tell that, after Vander Plaats was told that there would not be a place for him on the ticket, he warned Branstad that he was considering an independent run, and indicated that IFPC and Deace were supportive of the effort.

The description of what transpired at the meeting could also explain why IFPC suddenly took a sharper tone than the one they took immediately following the primary.

On June 9th, IFPC sent out a release from Danny Carroll saying:

“While we are disappointed by the results of the primary election, we offer our congratulations to the GOP gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad.  During this primary, the Iowa Family PAC stood firm on principles drawn from the Bible, and participated in a way that we believe honored God.  Our political involvement during this primary is indicative of our future intentions.  We will continue to look for candidates who share our biblical worldview and who will boldly defend the constitution.

“We are disappointed that more of the potential statesmen who were on the ballot didn’t win last night, but today we continue moving forward. We exist as individuals to honor God, and we exist as an organization to honor Him in the public arena. With His help that is exactly what we will continue to do,” said Carroll.

Five days later, IFPC sent out another press release stating:

“After nearly a week of calls for blind partisan unity from Republican loyalists, the Iowa Family PAC today reaffirmed their intention to withhold support from either major party candidate for governor in 2010, unless one or both of them illustrates a fundamental transformation.

“Our commitment to Biblical principles and the constitutional rule of law is not the result of any political affiliation, nor is it something that changes depending on the names on a ballot. If a candidate or their political party would like our support, they will need to offer a plan for promoting public policy that honors both God and the constitution,” said Carroll.

Either the five days that transpired between the two press releases felt like an eternity, or something happened that caused IFPC to rapidly change course, like Vander Plaats’ demands being rejected followed by the serious consideration of an independent gubernatorial campaign by Vander Plaats.

Like clockwork, WHO Radio personality Steve Deace, had Carroll, IFPC’s Chairman, on his radio show defending his organization’s position Tuesday.  In doing so, he and Deace could sow the seeds of discontent that could ultimately fuel a potential independent Vander Plaats campaign.   Deace also asked Carroll if IFPC’s position would change if Branstad chose Vander Plaats as his running mate.  Carroll said, “That would be a step in the right direction.”

If Vander Plaats makes good on his threat to run as an independent, he would need the assistance of Deace on WHO Radio and IFPC even more than he needed them in the primary.  It is also likely that Vander Plaats would focus his effort entirely on central Iowa since he did well there in the primary, and his vocal allies with bully pulpits will help him to make up for any fundraising disadvantage he will likely have.  Despite all the assistance he received from WHO Radio, Vander Plaats never purchased a single ad with the station.

On his last fundraising report on the Friday before the primary, Vander Plaats reported having over $67,000 cash on hand, yet it is likely that he did incur some expenses in the final days of the campaign.  Still, even if he has $30,000 to $40,000 available to use for an independent run, that gives him about $10,000 a month to live off of during a general election campaign.

It is likely that the people who have traditionally bankrolled Vander Plaats’ three gubernatorial campaigns wouldn’t pony up for an independent run.  In looking at Vander Plaats’ fundraising reports, a number of his biggest financial bankers reduced the amount they gave to his campaign after the first of this year.

The question that Vander Plaats and his supporters need to ask themselves is, will Republican voters tolerate such a move by Vander Plaats?  If he really wanted to run as an independent candidate, he shouldn’t have sought the Republican nomination.   If he has been mulling over an independent run for a while now, he should have indicated that when asked a question about it during the Des Moines Register’s debate.

While it is true that Vander Plaats performed better than polls indicated he would, 60% of Republicans still voted against him.  People also shouldn’t forget that Deace used his position at WHO to relentlessly attack whoever was going to be Vander Plaats’ opponent.  Yes, the focus was on Branstad, but before that, he aggressively went after Chris Rants and Paul McKinley when they were gubernatorial candidates.

Vander Plaats also benefited from the half million dollars that Iowans for Responsible Government spent attacking Branstad in the final month of a campaign.  Like Huckabee’s victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, a lot of Vander Plaats’ good fortune was being in the right place at the right time.

It’s also sad to see that Vander Plaats and his supporters refuse to respect the will of the people, in this case, Republican primary voters.   Regardless of whether you supported Vander Plaats’ executive order or not, an amendment to the state constitution needs to be passed in order to restore traditional marriage in the state.

The rationale behind passing an amendment is to let the people of Iowa vote, not just because conservatives are confident that it will pass, but because we believe that a decision of that magnitude should be made by the people, and we trust and respect their judgment.  If he runs as an independent, Vander Plaats would essentially be ignoring the people’s decision simply because he didn’t like the result and couldn’t get his way.

Finally, Bob Vander Plaats has had his turn.  For the last ten years, he has been a candidate for governor.  Those who think that Vander Plaats getting 40% of the vote in his third attempt at the nomination is some sort of great feat need to have their heads examined.

Vander Plaats has already had his chance at being the Lt. Governor nominee, and it didn’t work. His selection in 2006 caused rifts with Nussle and his supporters, be they the grassroots activists or donors. It is also shocking that Vander Plaats thinks he is deserving of being Branstad’s running mate after he and his cohorts have done everything in their power to taint Branstad to the extent that some people believe him to be no different that President Obama.

If it is true that Branstad rejected Vander Plaats’ demands to be his running mate, then Branstad has already begun to show that he has good political judgment.  Selecting Vander Plaats as his running mate would be the worst thing he could do politically.  It didn’t work in 2006, and I’m confident it wouldn’t have worked this time around either.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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