I’ve been posting less often at Swing State Project lately because Iowa campaign news is keeping me busy at my home blog, Bleeding Heartland. From time to time I will keep SSPers up to date on our highest-profile races: Roxanne Conlin’s bid against five-term Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Governor Chet Culver’s re-election campaign against four-term former Governor Terry Branstad.
After the jump you’ll find lots of links on the Iowa governor’s race since Branstad won the June 8 primary with about 50 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Bob Vander Plaats and 9 percent for Rod Roberts.
Vander Plaats ran to Branstad’s right during the primary, slamming the former governor’s record of growing government while feeding on wingnut anger about government-run health care, immigration and of course same-sex marriage rights in Iowa. Although Branstad spent several times more money during the first five months of the year, Vander Plaats was able to outperform his poll numbers on June 8. A post-primary meeting between the two candidates reportedly “did not go well,” as Branstad rebuffed Vander Plaats’ desire to be on the ticket. Consequently, Vander Plaats still hasn’t endorsed Branstad and is leaving the door open to running for governor as an independent. (Iowa is one of the few states without a sore loser law.) I doubt Vander Plaats will take the plunge for reasons described here, but if he does, he may help Culver by drawing some Republican votes away from Branstad.
Immediately after the primary, Iowa politics-watchers hashed out who was and wasn’t on Branstad’s short list for lieutenant governor. Some well-connected Republicans thought he would choose former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, who was the 2006 GOP nominee against Congressman Leonard Boswell in IA-03. Two days before the Republican state convention, Branstad picked little-known first-term State Senator Kim Reynolds, signaling that he plans to focus on fiscal issues during the general election campaign. I covered reaction to that pick here. Normally the state convention vote on the governor’s running mate is a formality, but Branstad must have been worried about how Reynolds would go over with party activists, because his campaign hit convention delegates with robocalls and e-mails emphasizing Reynolds’ social conservative credentials. On June 24, a sitting state legislator put Vander Plaats’ name in nomination for lieutenant governor, and delegates picked Reynolds over Vander Plaats by a surprisingly narrow margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. I discussed the divisions in the Iowa GOP here.
Branstad has stayed up on television since the primary, running this ad that glosses over his own record and lies about how Culver has managed state finances. It’s notable that Branstad bashes so-called Democratic “overspending” but never explains how he would have balanced the state budget during a recession without dipping into reserve funds or using federal stimulus money. Lieutenant Governor candidate Reynolds also criticizes teacher layoffs and Democratic budget policies, never acknowledging that education cuts would have been far worse without the federal stimulus bill all the Republicans opposed.
Meanwhile, Culver has run two television commercials since the primary. One covered Branstad’s dismal record on fiscal issues, which is “not worth repeating.” The other started a conversation about Branstad’s values, noting that he sought pay raises multiple times while cutting spending on things like foster care.
Culver picked up a couple of endorsements this month that should help his ground game in the general election. The Planned Parenthood PAC’s support was never in doubt, but Branstad reportedly tried hard to discourage the Iowa State Education Association from backing Culver. (The state’s largest teacher’s union had backed Branstad during his third gubernatorial campaign in 1990.) Branstad’s call for eliminating the state-funded preschool program probably hurt him with the ISEA.
The only public poll since the Iowa primary was conducted by Rasmussen, which found Branstad enjoying his largest-ever lead, 57 percent to 31 percent. Most Iowa Democrats believe the race is closer than that, but Culver is clearly in a hole.
Revenues for the fiscal year that just ended were better than expected, but that hasn’t stopped Republican zombie lies about a “budget deficit.”
Branstad started running a new tv ad this week, promising “honest, open and scandal-free government.” Culver’s campaign responded by releasing 400 pages of documents showing how Branstad and his top aides did campaign work on the public’s dime while he was governor. I discussed the document dump at Bleeding Heartland. It will be interesting to see what other material the Culver campaign uncovers in the 1,000 boxes they’ve been going through in the state archives.
Jonathan Narcisse is running for governor as an independent after flaking out on plans to challenge Chet Culver in the Democratic primary. I don’t think he will be a factor.
Share any thoughts about the Iowa governor’s race in this thread.