Bitterness likely still lingers from their hard fought 2010 gubernatorial primary campaign, but there appears to be a thaw in the frosty relationship between Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. The governor is scheduled to speak at the conservative summit scheduled for August 10 by Vander Plaats’ Family Leader organization. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds is also on the docket.
“Governor Branstad and I don’t do coffee with one another, but we’re not hostile towards one another either,” Vander Plaats said. “I think it sends a message of, at the end of the day, we’re still on the same team. We want pro-family values, principled leadership to be advanced.”
Branstad defeated Vander Plaats by almost 10 points in the 2010 primary. He then chose Kim Reynolds as the lieutenant governor nominee, but BVP attempted to force his way onto the ticket at the state convention. Reynolds won that vote, 56%-44%, but Vander Plaats’ power play created deep resentment toward him among Branstad’s staff and allies.
The ill will continued, as BVP refused to endorse Branstad in the general election, and gave strong consideration to running as an independent. In the end, he opted not to and Branstad dispatched incumbent Chet Culver by 10 points. More than three years after Vander Plaats’ convention coup attempt, Branstad and Reynolds will join him on the stage at the Leadership Summit.
“The governor and lieutenant governor have both enjoyed long-time support from the vast majority of The Family Leader’s rank and file members, and they both appreciate all of the time and energy these individuals have provided in order to ensure successful elections and legislative sessions,” said Branstad campaign spokesperson Jimmy Centers.
Branstad and Reynolds join an all-star lineup at the event that includes 2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum, rising GOP star Ted Cruz, media mogul Donald Trump, actor Stephen Baldwin, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Congressman Steve King and many others. Vander Plaats finds it encouraging that Iowa’s top Republican figures, as well as nationally known conservatives, want to be a part of the Leadership Summit.
“It’s got the potential to be the event of the year,” Vander Plaats said. “I look at the lineup right now and it is an interesting mix of presenters that will keep the day very interesting and high octane, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Another interesting dynamic at the summit will be the speeches given by Rick Santorum, who Vander Plaats endorsed in 2011, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who appears to have presidential aspirations. Sen. Cruz impressed Vander Plaats and many others during a visit to Iowa last week.
“Cruz is a phenomenon that I haven’t seen the like of in a long time, probably ever,” Vander Plaats said.
BVP added that if Rick Santorum is able to replicate the powerful speech he delivered earlier this year at CPAC, he might be able to lock in the support of many of the Iowans who thrust him to victory in the 2012 caucuses.
“He knocked it out of the park, in my opinion,” Vander Plaat said. “At the Leadership Summit, people are probably going to be able to see that.”
The Leadership Summit takes place on August 10 at Stephens Auditorium in Ames. Organizers expect a crowd of around 1,500. Tickets are available at thefamilyleadershipsummit.org.
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