Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been adamant that he will not make a decision about running for re-election until sometime in 2014. In an interview with the Des Moines Register in early January, Branstad talked about how Governor Bob Ray waited until February of 1982 to announce his decision not to seek re-election. Branstad, who was the Lt. Governor at the time, said he was as surprised as everyone else.
While Branstad has gone out of his way to keep all of his options open, he has also taken steps to begin assembling his re-election campaign. Last week, Phil Valenziano went to work as the Political Director of the Branstad Committee. The hiring of Valenziano is a clear indication that Branstad is preparing to run for re-election and that he is taking his re-election campaign seriously even though no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge him.
There have been other indicators that point towards Branstad seeking a historic sixth term. The most notable is his ongoing fundraising activity. Branstad raised $1.1 million for his campaign in 2012, and ended the year with over $1.4 million in the bank. Bringing on a talented operative like Valenziano only raises the probability that Branstad will seek re-election.
Valenziano came to Iowa in 2010 to get involved in Iowa politics in advance of the 2012 presidential election. He served as a Victory field director in the Cedar Rapids office that cycle. After the election, Valenziano worked as a clerk in the Iowa Legislature before joining the Romney campaign. The time spent on the campaign trail and in the statehouse has helped Valenziano get a firm grasp on Iowa politics.
Even though Romney didn’t campaign much in Iowa until the final month before the caucuses, Valenziano was perhaps the best campaign staffer in the state in 2012. It didn’t matter that his candidate wasn’t at GOP events and didn’t have much of a presence in the state. Valenziano could be seen working the room for Romney at local GOP fundraisers and events. In many instances, he ran circles around the staff members of other campaigns, who, in some cases, were accompanying their candidate.
Valenziano played a significant role in the Romney campaign across the country. He managed part or all the field operations in Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Missouri during the primary. In the general election, Valenziano served as the New Hampshire state manager, where he oversaw ten different offices and managed a staff of 30 people.
Under Valenziano’s guidance, New Hampshire Republicans more than doubled the most voter contact achieved in the state’s history. New Hampshire Republicans knocked on seven-times more doors, and assembled what was likely the largest volunteer base and grassroots organization in New Hampshire Republican history.
Now Valenziano returns to Iowa to help lead the Branstad effort. He seems like a perfect match for Branstad given that both know how to work a room. Hopefully, he will inspire a new class of campaign workers to learn the art of being an effective staffer.
Not only is this a great hire for Branstad, but it’s also a good indication that Branstad intends to seek re-election in 2014. That’s good for Iowa, and more importantly, for the Iowa Republicans who will share the ballot with him.
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